ENCINITAS — Encinitas residents won’t be able to see their supervisor candidates debate locally, as Kristin Gaspar declined two invitations to local forums. But Gaspar’s campaign said it was because the campaigns did not fit in the schedule, not for political reasons.
Gaspar is running against Dave Roberts in a runoff for the Dist. 3 Supervisor post, as both advanced to the Nov. 8 date after besting Escondido Mayor Sam Abed in the June primary.
Gaspar’s campaign turned down an invite to appear at the Leucadia-Encinitas Town Council forum set for Oct. 4 at the Encinitas Library, and also turned down an invitation to a forum hosted by the North County Arts Network. Both forums were sponsored by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.
Both forums have been canceled as a result of the decision.
If there are only two candidates and one declines, we won’t have the event because we don’t want to appear as if we are supporting one candidate over another,” said Cathy Greene of the League of Women Voters. “It happens from time to time.”
Kathleen Lees, who is a member of the Town Council, said that they received word of Gaspar’s declining from the League of Women Voters, which was handling the invites.
“We were stunned,” Lees said. “People are usually calling us and asking when it is it going to be, we have never had anyone turn us down.”
Word of Gaspar’s decision to decline the invitation first came to light in Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer’s newsletter to supporters where she made mention of one candidate’s decision to do so.
“I also believe that refusing to participate in a debate organized by the League of Women Voters, even after being given a variety of dates to choose from, is cowardly and disrespectful of voters,” Shaffer said.
Jason Cabel Roe, Gaspar’s campaign manager, said in a series of emails that the decision to decline the invitation was not politically motivated, but a result of scheduling conflicts.
“The campaign has already agreed to three forums and continues to receive invitations,” Roe said. “We will review and accept as it works with the schedule.”
Roe said that Gaspar was not alone in her decision to withdraw from a forum. Roberts’ campaign, he said, withdrew from a Rotary Club of San Diego forum that was originally scheduled for next week, but was rescheduled to October.
“It is unfortunate that Supervisor Roberts pulled out of next week’s Rotary forum, after previously confirming his participation,” Roe said. “Mayor Gaspar is still willing to participate if Supervisor Roberts is.”
Roberts’ campaign manager Johnathan Parker said that no final decision has been made on the downtown San Diego forum.
“At this time, there are no debates scheduled for Encinitas. Supervisor Roberts had accepted invitations for two debates in Encinitas with organizations that had asked the League of Women Voters to moderate their forums. The League recently informed our campaign that these events have been cancelled, because the challenger declined to participate. We are currently discussing details for events with other hosts and remain open to debating the clear differences between Supervisor Roberts and his challenger inside the district at an Encinitas event.”
As it stands, Encinitas residents will have to travel to Mira Mesa (Mira Mesa Town Council) or Escondido (San Diego County Farm Bureau) to see the candidates share the same stage.
“Which is unfortunate,” Lees said. “A lot of voters won’t be able to see them debate.”