The League of Women Voters of Anne Arundel County planned four forums with candidates for State House this month, but the group’s ambitions were curtailed following cancellations by Republican candidates. The League planned forums with Maryland Senate and House of Delegates Candidates for Districts 30, 31, 32 and 33.
The District 31 event was canceled altogether after several candidates withdrew after previously committing to attend. The League walked a tightrope in providing information about the cancellation on Facebook. “At the time the decision was made to cancel, Scott Harman, Harry E. Freeman, and Karen Patricia Simpson were the only confirmed participants.”
Harman is the Democrat running for the district’s Senate seat against incumbent Republican Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire, Freeman and Simpson are running to represent District 31B in the House of Delegates; the Republican candidates are House Minority Leader Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke and Brian Chisholm.
The league said that its organization, as well as two other sponsors, the American Association of University Women and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, were governed by tax laws and Federal Election Commission rules for candidate forums, “which require the presence of more than one candidate for any office.”
The District 30 forum was cut in half on short notice. Up until four hours before the start of the forum, five candidates were confirmed to attend, chapter president Niecy Chambers told the crowd on the night of the forum. But the Republican House candidates in District 30A, Bob O’Shea and Chelsea Gill, notified the forum coordinator on the afternoon of the event that they could not attend because they had been called to a mandatory meeting by Kipke, Chambers told the crowd.
Democratic House candidate Alice Cain attended the forum ― as a member of the audience. She posted to Facebook: “Feeling disappointed…Back in August, I accepted an invitation from the League of Women Voters to speak at their forum tonight between all nominees for the statehouse for our district. Late this afternoon, BOTH of my Republican opponents cancelled at the last minute to attend a Republican meeting instead. As a result, I can’t participate tonight in an effort to be ‘fair’ to all candidates.”
On Wednesday night, the Republican Senate nominee in District 32, County Councilman John J. Grasso, pulled out of the LWV forum in Odenton just minutes before it was set to begin. As a result, his Democratic opponent, Del. Pamela G. Beidle, was forced to sit in the audience for an hour and 45 minutes while the six candidates for the district’s three House seats debated.
Grasso has been under attack for recent comments he made denigrating Muslims and immigrants. A handful of protesters stood by the driveway to the church where the debate was taking place, demanding Grasso’s resignation.