The Marlborough Republican Party has declined an invitation from the Town’s Democratic Party to participate in a debate between the candidates running for town offices in November.
Incumbent Democratic Supervisor Al Lanzetta favors debates and pointed out that his party chairwoman Mici Simonofsky reached out to her Republican counterpart Mike Dovich on several occasions to schedule a debate.
“We didn’t hear from them for about a month and then I had her [Simonofsky] send another [email] letter and Dovich replied that it must have gone into his trash and said at this time they do not want to debate. That’s where we are now,” Lanzetta said. “[In] talking to the women from the League of Women Voters that is what’s happening with all Republicans; they don’t want to debate the Democrats. That’s my understanding.” Lanzetta said Dovich did not offer a reason for his party’s decision.
Lanzetta believes debates are a fundamental part of our political process. He said when he and Tom Coupart were running against each other a number of years ago, as they are today, both parties could not agree to the terms or setting for a debate but Coupart then stated to the media that debates are “good for the people of Marlborough to know who’s running.”
At this year’s Republican caucus, candidate Tom Coupart told the Southern Ulster Times that he was open to a debate but in a recent interview he said his party had decided otherwise.
“All that I know is I was told now we’re not going to do it, I said no problem, and you move on to the next issue,” he said. “I wasn’t going to cry wolf or anything over it. So that’s the way it was left.”
Coupart said “anytime you have a debate it’s beneficial to anyone who attends and unfortunately in a small community you’re not reaching out, you’re not touching the people who are out of the circle; you’re just talking to the same people all the time. It’s not like you’re reaching a broader base.”
Coupart said he keeps up with the important issues in town because people regularly stop by to speak with him.
Chairman Mike Dovich said his Republican committee members did discuss the invitation to debate but collectively decided to not accept the offer.
“The committee essentially made a group decision on it, that’s all,” Dovich said. “We want to focus our efforts on going door to door by appealing to the voters and taking that route; make it a grass-roots effort.”
Dovich said his party believes more will come from these face to face discussions.
“Let’s discuss our issues with them, let’s find out what the individual homeowners and property owners issues are, that type of thing,” he said.
Dovich understands there may be some criticism of his party over this decision but he insisted “there was nothing nefarious about it. It was a group decision and was not made by any one individual so if we’re going to take the heat we’re going to take it collectively…That’s the situation in a nutshell.”
Democratic Party Chairwoman Mici Simonofsky said in a text she received from Dovich he said his candidates “unanimously declined and that’s all he said. As far as the Democrats are concerned we’re ready, willing and able.”
Simonofsky said candidates should appear before the public.
“If people can’t be in front of the public and tell them what they want to do for them, how can they really ethically expect people to vote for them,” she asked.
In recalling her own time running for the Town Board, Simonofsky said “I was nervous about having to be in front of people never knowing what questions were going to be asked, but you answer the question that’s in front of you and you do it the best you know how.”
By Mark Reynolds