While the Bill Clinton's visit to stump for Dan Maffei is sure to draw a Democratic crowd, there was a fair showing of Republicans at Tuesday's town hall debate. The event in Wayne County, featuring Congresswoman Buerkle and Green Party Candidate Ursula Rozum, was organized by Buerkle's campaign. Dan Maffei was invited to attend, but declined. Our Sarah Blazonis talked with the 24th district's candidates about the role such debates play in the campaign
CENTRAL NEW YORK -- They know the names and they've seen the faces, but voters say Tuesday's town hall debate gave voters a unique view of the race for the 24th Congressional District.
"It gives you a chance to see the body language and all that other good stuff and it gives you a chance to ask a few questions if you're lucky," said Marion resident Gary Shaw.
Audience members asked Republican incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle and Green Party challenger Ursula Rozum about topics ranging from the economy to the environment, but one seat remained empty. Democratic candidate Dan Maffei did not take part in the Ontario Town Hall. At the same time that event was happening, he held a press conference at Syracuse's Thornden Park.
As Maffei challenged Buerkle's stance on hydrofracking, Buerkle asked why Maffei didn't accept her campaign's invite to question her face to face.
"I think it's cowardly and I think the people of the district really deserve to have a face to face with someone who is asking for their vote and asking for their support," said Congresswoman Buerkle.
Maffei says there are other ways to reach out to voters.
"I do think it's important to go around the district and talk to voters, but I think you have to go to them. I don't think you can expect them to show up at an event held by one campaign where they invite some other folks," said Maffei.
Buerkle and Rozum say the town halls are still valuable even without all candidates present.
"Given that I'm a relatively unknown candidate here in Wayne County, I think that they're very important for getting my message out, for getting out the message that there's a Green Party candidate in the race," said Rozum.
Audience members said Maffei would've been a welcomed addition.
"I would've loved the opportunity to hear what he had to say in person as well, because otherwise you're depending on secondhand information pretty much," said Shaw.
But they will get the chance to hear from all three candidates during two televised debates in the coming weeks.
YNN, in conjunction with the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, will be airing a live debate in the 24th Congressional District on Monday, October 29, 2012 at 7 p.m. Dan Maffei has declined our invitation, citing concerns about the format YNN and the Campbell Institute intend to use. However, a podium will be set up in the studio and available for Maffei should he change his mind at any point and decide to participate.