Republican Decision to Skip League Forum Disappointing

There will be no public forum for the candidates for the Madison Borough Council in 2022, much to the disappointment of voters and to the detriment of democracy, as stated in a recent Madison Eagle editorial.

Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Council member Rachel Ehrlich and Board of Health Member and Library Trustee Tom Haralampoudis, were notified by the League of Women Voters for the Morristown Area that the planned League Candidate Forum for the two Borough Council seats up for election had to be cancelled because the Republican candidates, Lenora Clark and Matt Van Natten, have chosen not to participate.

Ehrlich and Haralampoudis received the news in an August 15 email from Barbara Kuppersmith, Voter Services Chair for the Morristown Area Chapter: 

“We are sorry to hear that Lenora has declined to participate in a Forum hosted by the League of Women Voters for the Madison Council Candidates, and we have not heard from Matthew.” 

The Democratic candidates expressed their disappointment in the Republican decision.  “We strongly believe that an informed and engaged voter is paramount to a thriving democracy.  Our Republican opponents have rejected one of the most effective ways to reach voters and give them an opportunity to have their voices heard on the issues that matter most to them,” they stated.

Councilmember Ehrlich noted that “The nonpartisan League of Women Voters has a long history of providing a unique and valuable service.  Each year, the League invites candidates of all parties to participate in their Candidate Forum, where a moderator reads questions from local voters and each candidate is given equal time to respond and rebut if desired.”

The League reached out to all four candidates weeks ago to secure a date to hold the Madison forum. Candidates Ehrlich and Haralampoudis responded quickly, agreeing to participate.  Even after extending the deadline twice in the hope of a positive response, Ms. Kuppersmith had to notify the candidates:

“We are therefore canceling the forum since we must have at least one representative from each party”.

As the League noted in a recent press release published in the Madison Eagle, when candidates decline to participate in Forum debates, [it] “robs voters of the opportunity to hear directly from candidates, learn about policy issues that affect their lives, and make wise voting decisions.”

Candidate Haralampoudis stated “Their disregard for voters is just one example of our opponents’ unwillingness to engage with the public to explain their positions on important local issues.  Rachel and I find this very troubling from candidates who seek to represent all Madison voters. 

To date this year, neither Republican candidate has attended or spoken at the Council meetings, which is the very office they seek. They seem disinterested in learning about Council business or speaking up on topics that are important to the community.”

Madison Democratic Committee co-chairs Alix Jennings and Christine Preston added: “While their candidates are refusing to engage in the public forums available to them, the Madison Republican Committee has chosen to post false social media ‘warnings’ to Madison residents, claiming that one of our candidates is ‘coming after your homes, your businesses.’  Threatening and inflammatory remarks like these just feed into political aggression. It does not inform and should not be tolerated. Why not participate in a public dialog like the League offers instead?       

“It is our sincere hope that Madison can avoid the kind of dangerous politicization we see elsewhere across the country. In a town like Madison, a political party should not matter as much as the substance of the candidate– their positions, their experience, and their vision.  Our elected officials represent all Madison voters.  We welcome every opportunity for candidates for office to show what they have to offer and why they deserve our vote,” Jennings and Preston concluded.    

You can read more about this in the Madison Eagle’s in-depth article, including the response from the Madison GOP in which they share that they prefer to meet with supporters as opposed to inviting the public, whom they seek to represent, to weigh in and share their concerns.