Ridgefield's League of Women Voters cancels candidates forum due to lack of Republican participation

The League of Woman Voters in Ridgefield hosts a candidates debate at the Ridgefield Library. Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.

The League of Woman Voters in Ridgefield hosts a candidates debate at the Ridgefield Library. Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.

Lisa Weir / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — The town’s League of Women Voters chapter will not sponsor a candidates forum this election cycle, citing a lack of “confirmed participation” from Republican candidates running for the Board of Education and the Planning and Zoning Commission.

In an email to Hearst Connecticut Media, LWVR President Marilyn Carroll said the decision to invite these individuals to the forum was based on “interest from the community about current topics.” There is a contested race for seats on the BOE, but not P&Z.

On Sept. 8, the League emailed the chairmen of Ridgefield’s Republican and Democratic Town Committees outlining the number of candidates from each party that had confirmed their participation in the would-be forum.

“Of the 12 candidates invited between the BOE and P&Z, (five) out of the (seven) Democrats said they would attend with one giving a tentative yes and one not responding,” the email reads. “(Three) out of the (five) Republicans said they would not attend with (two) not responding. Without any confirmed Republican participation, we are unable to proceed with the forum in a non-partisan fashion.”

Since LWVR does not support or oppose any political party or any candidate, Carroll said, it must follow the guidelines of the national League of Women Voters for non-partisan debate and forum policies. Those guidelines, she explained, do not sanction sponsorship of a forum where candidates appear and speak without opposition.

LWVR offered two possible dates for the forum — Sept. 26 and Oct. 24. — which conflicted with the Republican candidates’ schedules, RTC Chairman Michael Raduazzo said.

“They all responded back to the League of Women Voters with their regrets,” he added. “My perspective is we’re making our candidates available. … Our Board of Finance and Board of Education candidates will be available at campaign headquarters to meet (with) as well as speak to voters.”

DTC Chairman Joseph Shapiro said he was disappointed to hear the League had canceled the forum, which he noted as one of Ridgefield’s “essential norms” during election season.

“Typically all the candidates go to it … and there’s significant attendance in person,” he added. “We would like to see the messages of the candidates from both parties get out there.”

Election Day is Nov. 2.