With the campaigns of Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown unable to agree on a format, the Manchester and Nashua chambers of commerce “pulled the plug” on an event that had been scheduled for Oct. 14 at Saint Anselm College, a top organizer said this afternoon.
J. Christopher Williams, president and CEO of the Nashua Chamber of Commerce said he and Mancheter Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Mike Skelton made the decision last night after concluding that it was becoming too logistically difficult to go forward with the event.
According to Williams, the Shaheen campaign initially declined the format originally proposed by the chambers, for a face-to-face debate. The chambers then suggested separate appearances on the same night on the same stage, but at different times, which was accepted by the Shaheen camp but rejected by the Brown camp.
The Brown campaign on Wednesday then suggested a format in which both candidates would appear on the same stage at the same time, but essentially with no interaction, simply answering questions posed by the moderators, each with no rebuttals to the other’s answers.
Williams said today he informally passed that suggestion along to the Shaheen campaign but did not “formally” propose it and did not formally ask for the Shaheen campaign’s feedback.
He said he wanted to speak first with Skelton last night before formally proposing it to the Shaheen campaign.
But, “Mike and I connected last night and decided it was better for us to simply pull the plug on the event altogether given the timing and logistics rather than serve as a messenger between the two campaigns,” Williams said. “We never formally proposed it to the Shaheen campaign.”
He said he did not hear back from the Shaheen campaign, even informally.
“Given the shrinking time frame and the fact that this event involved an audience with several hundred people, it was just no longer viable,” Williams said.
“We are disappointed we couldn’t make something work at the end of the day,” he said. “It would have been an event focusing exclusively on business issues. We thought we had a compelling event planned, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.”
Williams shared with the New Hampshire Journal an email he sent to the Brown campaign this afternoon. It does not close the door on an event at another time, but says that the two campaigns should first work out a mutually agreeable format:
Williams’ email follows:
“On behalf of the Greater Nashua and Manchester Chambers, we greatly appreciate your consideration of our proposal for an event that would allow our member businesses to hear from Senator Brown on the critical business issues facing New Hampshire. We appreciate each campaign’s perspective on the appropriate format for this event and appreciate the ongoing dialogue with you to work through these details. Given the planning needs for an event of this scope and the advance notice necessary for our respective memberships to be able to attend, we no longer feel an event on October 14th is logistically possible.
“We are open to rescheduling this event for a later date that would allow the necessary time for our Chambers to adequately plan the event and market it to our members; however, we also recognize there are likely very few dates between now and Election Day that work for both campaigns and both Chambers. Rescheduling the event would also require continued dialogue and agreement on a format that works for all parties. As we have noted previously, the format of the program is less important to our Chambers than is having the opportunity for our members to engage with the candidates on business issues. We are open to any format for this event, should both campaigns be able to mutually agree on a format that you wish to bilaterally suggest to us.
“Thank you again for your consideration of our request. We wish you the best moving forward, and we look forward to working together again in the future.”
The Brown campaign blamed the Shaheen campaign for the chambers’ decision.
“The Nashua and Manchester Chambers proposed a debate. Scott Brown accepted it, Jeanne Shaheen refused,” campaign spokesman Elizabeth Guyton said. “It’s disappointing that she wouldn’t agree to face her opponent on two of the main issues of this campaign, jobs and the economy.
“We will work with the sponsors to arrange a separate appearance, but the fact remains that this debate isn’t happening because Jeanne Shaheen refused to do it. She also refused to show up at another debate at Franklin Pierce University this week, and won’t appear on another debate offer from WGIR radio. This is a continuation of a troubling pattern from Jeanne Shaheen, who hasn’t held an open town hall in more than two years,” said Guyton.
The New Hampshire Journal is seeking comment from the Shaheen campaign.
Shaheen and Brown are scheduled to debate on Monday in North Conway at an event sponsored by the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council. They are also scheduled to appear together in three televised debates later this month. Brown accepted seven debate appearances, while Shaheen accepted four.