Philadelphia voters will have four chances to hear from the mayoral candidates at debates scheduled for the coming weeks, but all of those events won’t feature the entire field.
While Democrat Jim Kenney and Republican Melissa Murray Bailey are invited to all the forums, third-party candidates Jim Foster, Boris Kindij and Osborne Hart will have just one chance to speak in such an environment.
The first of the mayoral debates will take place Sept. 29.
Sponsored by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, all five candidates have been invited to “The Future of Philadelphia: A Mayoral Town Hall Debate” at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 237 S. Broad St.
The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the debate starts at 7 p.m.
On Oct. 12, the “Leading Questions: Philadelphia Mayoral Debate” between Kenney and Bailey will take place at WHYY, 150 N. Sixth St. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the debate starting at 6:30 p.m.
The debate — sponsored by WHYY/NewsWorks, the Committee of Seventy, Young Involved Philadelphia, NAACP Millennials, Influencing Action Movement and the Urban Philly Professional Network — requires registration and will be livestreamed.
One week after that on Oct. 19, Kenney and Bailey will make their way to the Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St., for The Next Mayor Debate.
Focused on business and economic development, this event will be co-hosted by Philadelphia Media Network, The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Roadmap for Growth campaign and Temple University’s Center for Public Interest Journalism. (Event partners include WHYY, Committee of Seventy, WURD Radio, Young Involved Philadelphia, and Technically Philly.)
Register for this 7:30-8:30 p.m. event via this link.
Finally, 6ABC will tape a debate between Kenney and Bailey on Oct. 23 to air from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Oct. 25. Kindij confirmed that he had not heard about the debate before NinetyNine asked.
Limited-debate field leads to concerns
Suffice it to say, the third-party trio is unhappy at the lack of exclusion and have discussed banding together in formal protest.
A livid Foster said independents entering the race later in the game “is no excuse for not planning for them to be part and parcel of what the other candidates are offered.” He said that without changes, he’ll launch a protest effort.
“I’m outraged,” he said. “From my perspective, it looks like those who have the potential of bringing facts to table are being intentionally excluded to water down the process.”
“Jim Foster, Osborne Hart and myself, as official mayoral candidates, should have the same rights as Jim Kenney and Melissa Bailey in being introduced to the public through major media as well as to participate in all TV debates,” wrote Kindij in an email.
“Even in some less democratic countries, this type of media discrimination concentrated toward independent and third-party candidates does not exist,” he continued. “I strongly urge Philadelphia’s media to provide ‘underprivileged’ candidates with equal political treatment.
“Philadelphians deserve to hear what independent and third-party candidates with approximately 8,500 collected signatures have to say as well.”
The Kenney campaign doesn’t necessarily disagree with that sentiment.
Lauren Hitt, the campaign’s spokeswoman, told NinetyNine, “We welcomed the participation of all the candidates. The decision of who to include or exclude was the sponsors’.”
YIP’s Jim Saksa explained the group’s decision to limit the debate field to two.
“Young Involved Philadelphia is committed to promoting active citizenship and engaged leadership in the city, which is why we are excited to host a debate between Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney and Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey,” said Saksa, who writes for NewsWorks‘ PlanPhilly site.
“While we applaud the independent and third-party candidates for contributing to the democratic process, YIP ultimately wanted to provide a forum where the two parties’ candidates would each have enough time to properly articulate their differing visions for Philadelphia and answer questions from our moderators and audience,” he continued. “There simply wouldn’t be enough time to do that if we invited every candidate.”