ELIZABETHTOWN - Efforts by Denton Publications to organize a debate between the candidates for New York's 23rd Congressional District have proven fruitless as incumbent Democrat Bill Owens has refused to participate.
Invitations were sent last week to campaign representatives for Owens and his opponent, Watertown businessman Matt Doheny, who is running on the Republican and Independence lines, to participate in a Denpubs-sponsored debate planned for Oct. 25, at AuSable Valley Central School.
Both candidates were invited to suggest alternative dates and locations for the debate, but Owens chose not to do so as he turned down the invitation.
"We regret that we have to decline this invitation," replied Owens campaign spokesman Clay Schroers in an Oct. 11 e-mail. "We have received a number of debate requests and simply are not able to accomodate all of them."
A followup e-mail suggesting alternative dates and requesting additional comment did not receive a response from Schroers by the time this article was printed.
Doheny, meanwhile, also said he's not available for the Oct. 25 debate, but campaign representative Alison Power said Doheny "would really like to participate" on a different day.
Both candidates were informed they would be offered the chance to be featured in a meet-the-candidate event should their opponent choose not to participate in the debate.
To that end, Doheny has agreed to appear Oct. 22, 1-2 p.m. at the Essex County Board of Supervisors chambers. Members of the public are welcome to come with questions for the congressional candidate.
As of Oct. 12, only two debates have been announced to which both Doheny and Owens are committed. The first will be taped Oct. 14 on "Public Eye" a public affairs program on WPBS-TV, Watertown's Public Broadcasting station. It will air 9 p.m. Oct. 15.
A pre-taped Oct. 15 debate will air 8 p.m. on ABC's Syracuse-based affiliate WSYR-TV Newschannel 9 with a simulcast on Watertown's ABC affiliate, WWTI Channel 50. WSYR hosted the only public debate last year that featured all three major candidates in the race.