Another low turnout by Republican candidates at an election forum last week again denied South Jeffco voters the chance to hear political rivals contrast their views at the same venue.
So far this campaign season, face-to-face meetings have been few in two key South Jeffco races for the state legislature: Republican Justin Everett versus Democrat Mary Parker in House District 22, and Democrat Andy Kerr versus Republican Ken Summers in Senate District 25.
At the League of Women Voters’ candidates forum on Oct. 11 at St. Philip Lutheran Church in Columbine Hills, the matters at hand were somewhat overshadowed by a developing controversy regarding the lack of participation by GOP candidates in league forums.
Under the league’s national rules, there must be at least two candidates present from any jurisdiction to engage any candidate in a question-and-answer format.
Parker was able to answer questions only because Libertarian candidate Lynn Weitzel was present. Everett reportedly was at a sister’s out-of-town wedding, and campaign manager Tina Francone made an appearance on his behalf.
Meanwhile, neither Summers nor Kerr attended, and neither sent a representative. Organizers for the event said Kerr had intended to come but had to cancel at the last minute because of a family emergency.
Summers did not return calls asking why he did not appear at two league events last week.
In rare joint appearances, Everett and Parker both attended a COHOPE meet-the-candidates potluck picnic in early August at Clement Park. Summers and Kerr were at the Economic Development Council candidates forum on Sept. 4.
About 30 people showed up for the league forum last Thursday, which was competing with the vice-presidential debate that same evening.
At another league event earlier last week in Lakewood, there was some behind-the-scenes concern that the GOP candidates, particularly Summers and Amy Attwood (from House District 28), did not make appearances. Incumbent state representative E.V. Leyendecker was the only Republican at that event.
While the Republican representation was lacking, no one at last Thursday’s event suggested there is an organized Republican move to avoid league events. The league consistently represents itself as primarily educational and strictly nonpartisan.
However, Republican Frank McNulty, the speaker of the state House, has been quoted as saying that Republicans are avoiding league events because they are considered liberal-inclined and not a good place to find supporters.
The vice chair of the Jeffco Republican Party, Don Ytterberg, did not return calls seeking comment.