Mayor Thomas Menino disavowed on Monday comments made by his debate manager on the â€œorganizational capacityâ€ of a nonpartisan voting rights group to hold a debate.
Meninoâ€™s debate manager, former CBS news executive Ed Fouhy*, told the Boston Herald last week that he believed it was â€œdoubtfulâ€ Menino would attend three proposed MassVOTE forums, saying the group â€œlacks the organizational capacity to sponsor a debate.â€ The comments drew a small uproar online.
Sitting with reporters from weekly and neighborhood newspapers, Menino said he would stick to the number of debates heâ€™s agreed to: two before the September 22 preliminary election and another before the November final election.
â€œI wasnâ€™t the one who said that,â€ Menino said when asked about Fouhyâ€™s comments. â€œI know those guys at MassVOTE. I work with them on the issuesâ€¦Theyâ€™re very capable. Iâ€™ve filed legislation with them in the past legislative session.â€
Asked if thatâ€™s the case, why not attend the MassVOTE forum, Menino said, â€œBecause I agreed to three. I mean, if I started doing that, Iâ€™d have 44 debates.â€
As of late Monday, the campaigns said they had not heard from the Menino camp on any debates, despite what they said was a July 1 pledge to respond. All three â€“ City Councillors At-Large Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty, along with South End businessman Kevin McCrea â€“ have agreed to attend three MassVOTE forums. Forums are considered different from debates in that there isnâ€™t extensive back-and-forth between candidates, and generally consist of candidates, one after the other, speaking about their platforms.
â€œIâ€™ve agreed to three debates in this campaign. Iâ€™ll go to those three debates,â€ Menino told reporters on Monday. â€œWeâ€™re trying to get the organizations together, figure out whoâ€™s going to do those three debates. Itâ€™s important that I do because I want to talk to the people of Boston, explain my positions on the issues and how I plan to move the city forward. Because all I hear is criticism of the city and I think the city has a lot to offer and has a great future.â€
Another reporter asked his thoughts on why this mayoral race is the busiest in years. â€œThereâ€™s ambition,â€ Menino said. â€œThereâ€™s -- You have a mayor whoâ€™s been here 16 years. And theyâ€™re all out there trying to talk to the voters of Boston, saying they believe they can do a better job. Thatâ€™s all.â€
((*In the interest of full disclosure: I worked with Fouhy at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as part of a joint UMass-Boston/Harvard University media analysis project. Information here; and the website from the project is still up.))