The League of Women Voters started asking Point Borough municipal candidates on Sept. 18 if they would participate in a candidates forum.
However, Borough Republican candidates Antoinette DePaola and Bill Borowsky said at the time that their schedules were too booked up. They are challenged by Democrats Salvatore Martino and Jim McClure.
Lois Jacobsen, a Borough resident and official with the League of Women Voters of Ocean County, had spoken during the public comment portion of the Sept. 18 Borough Council meeting about how the League would like to schedule a candidates forum at Borough Hall.
Shortly afterwards, the council went into a closed session meeting for unrelated reasons, but there was also some conversation about the prospect of a debate.
DePaola told her colleagues she was not going to do it, so the idea died there, said Democratic Councilmembers Chris Goss and Chris Leitner.
When interviewed about it recently, DePaola said she and Borowsky simply do not have time.
"Between our council meetings, other meetings, work, families and campaign commitments, there was not one single night we could both be there at the same time," said DePaola.
Borowsky said on Monday that he had indicated he would "pass" on it.
"All my spare time is accounted for, so at the time I said I would have to pass," he said. "I'm busy a couple of nights a week with council stuff, out walking (campaigning) a couple of nights a week, I have to work late a couple of nights a week doing paperwork and things like that. And, being a parent, I try to do as much as I can with my kids."
Leitner said in an email, "I know Sal and Jim wanted to do a forum/debate, but...it died when the DePaola and Borowsky refused. Lois asked at a council meeting, and in executive session Toni and Bill said they wouldn't do it, so it didn't really make sense to ask Sal and Jim at that point. I know Sal and Jim were eager for some kind of forum or debate. The contrast could only gain them votes!"
DePaola said she had made her comments to her council colleagues on the way into an executive session.
"It was not an executive session topic," she said. "Lois invited us at the end of the public session, just before we went into executive session, so I talked about it in a casual conversation on the way in."
Martino said on Monday that he had never heard about the League asking for a candidates forum.
"I wouldn't have had a problem with it," Martino said. "I'm an attorney, I'm not afraid to talk with anybody. I would not shy away from it."
He said he was surprised the Republicans had turned down the possibility.
"I'm surprised because they're the incumbents, so I would think they have an advantage since they're on council and know the inner workings," Martino said.
Regarding DePaola's explanation about the scheduling problem, Martino said, "I'll take her at her word."
Goss said he remembered talking at a Democratic club meeting after the council meeting about the Republicans turning down the idea of a candidates forum, but that perhaps Martino was not at the club meeting at that time.
McClure did not return phone messages left at his business or his home Monday and Tuesday and did not respond to emails sent to his business and personal email addresses.