Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore is cancelling their upcoming candidates forums after several qualified candidates withdrew from them this week.
In an announcement from the organization, Executive Director Donna Bozza said ” It is with sadness that CBES is announcing the cancellation of our upcoming three Candidate Forums.
“For over 20 years, CBES has tried hard to make these Forums a service for our community, by providing an unbiased and civil setting that allows each candidate to present his/her position. There are very few opportunities in our local and state elections where you can listen to both candidates answer questions that are focused on Eastern Shore issues.
“With this year’s Forums, we have partnered with several organizations, including the local sorority community. CBES felt it was important to work with the sororities because they provided a broader reach into the African American community, and they represent many of the African American women leaders of the Eastern Shore.
“Their role in our forum was limited to helping to publicize the event, and a few members would have been helping us collect questions from the audience.
“A total of 11 candidates (out of 22 candidates for contested seats), for state legislator, supervisor, clerk of court, and school board, had initially agreed to participate but recently decided that any involvement of the sororities was unacceptable due to the perceived bias from the sororities, and by extension CBES.
“Given that in all but one of the races we would no longer have both candidates participating, we have decided we could no longer hold the three Candidate Forums.
“CBES would like to apologize to the candidates who still wanted to participate and to the voters who use our forums to help inform their decisions.
“Unfortunately, the candidates who pulled out of the Forums have made it impossible to provide this important service to the community.”
Delegate Rob Bloxom, one of the candidates who withdrew from the discussion, said he was not informed groups who engage in political advocacy were going to be co-sponsoring the event.
“I have participated in the CBES debate for the past nine years when asked. This year was to be no different. However, the fact that politically active groups are co-sponsoring the event caused me to rethink my decision. The co-sponsoring groups were not mentioned in the original invitation, either by oversight or by design. There are many in these groups that actually support my candidacy. That is not the point. The CBES advertised a non-partisan discussion. I hope in the future the CBES will think twice about how they structure their forums.”