A debate for local and county politicians planned by the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce will likely only have Republicans on hand to answer questions.

Yorktown Democrats have declined an invitation to the debate on the grounds that the Chamber has a board of mostly Republicans and have requested that the debate be handled instead by the League of Women Voters.

“Five Republican candidates for local office either sit on the Chamber’s Board of Directors, Executive Board, or are members of the Chamber,” Elliot Krowe, Co-Chairman of Yorktown Democrats, said in a statement. “The Yorktown Republican Committee has accepted the Chamber of Commerce’s debate invitation despite the conflict of interest that having current candidates also sitting on the Board of Directors presents, thereby making it impossible to present a fair debate that Yorktown residents can trust.”

Sign Up for Yorktown Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Chamber President Sergio Espostio said the Chamber has run debates in Yorktown for 15 years. The Chamber chose Aaron Bock, a Democrat, and RoseMarie Panio, a Republican, as moderators for the event, and offered to have a monitor at the debates from the League of Women Voters. 

“The truth wills itself out and it is clear that the leaders of the Yorktown Democratic Committee and Democratic candidates chose to play politics at the expense of all the people of Yorktown and had no intention on attending the fair Chamber debates,” Esposito said. 

The debates are scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, for county level candidates, and Wednesday, Oct. 23, for town level candidates, at Yorktown Stage, 268 Veterans Road. 

“The debates will continue as scheduled and I will have a chair waiting for candidates Ilan Gilbert, Diana Quast, Sheralyn Goodman and Patricia Sullivan-Rothberg as well as Legislative Candidates Colin Smith and Vedat Gashi,” Esposito said.

But Krowe countered, “Our candidates are eager to debate in a fair forum. The League of Women Voters runs fair debates in virtually every community in the county. There is no reason they should not be doing one in Yorktown. The League’s commitment to integrity is reflected in its debate rules, which are designed to scrupulously ensure that there is not even an appearance of impropriety. It is recommended that debate moderators are not identified with a political party, do not have any connection with the candidates in the debate and are from another community.”

Esposito countered that point in a press release issued this week.

“The Yorktown Chamber of Commerce stands firm in its belief that public officials and leaders should work with and not degrade local organizations, businesses and citizens that support the community regardless of what misperceived political affiliation the Yorktown Democratic Committee has deemed an organization or individual may or may not have,” Esposito said. “This is what it truly means to work for all the people of Yorktown.”