An official with the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa on Monday said the organization is disappointed that Mayor Dewey Bartlett has declined a request to participate in a mayoral forum Wednesday.
The event will be the last public debate where Tulsans can walk in off the street and ask the mayoral candidates questions.
“The League made earnest efforts to work with the Bartlett campaign but received no communication following our first conversation despite our offer of three possible dates for the forum,” said Mary Jane Landaman, voter services chair for the League.
The League has said previously that it cannot recall a time in the last 20 years when an incumbent mayor has declined to participate in the organization’s mayoral forum. Landaman noted that the League has been conducting candidate forums throughout its 93-year history in Tulsa.
“We will, therefore, move forward and are grateful to the other four candidates for agreeing to join us at the Tulsa Center for Creativity on Wednesday, for what we anticipate will be a very interesting discussion,” she said. “Our invitation to Mayor Bartlett remains open should he change his mind.”
Landaman said the last time she had heard from the Bartlett campaign was April 26, despite sending three subsequent emails.
Bartlett’s campaign manager, Matt Faeth, said in an email to The Frontier that the mayor cannot make it to Wednesday’s event.
“The mayor has participated in many debates and forums throughout the campaign season, but, unfortunately, his schedule doesn’t allow him to attend them all,” Faeth said.
The mayoral candidates who will be there are City Councilor G.T. Bynum, Tom E. McCay, Lawrence Kirkpatrick and Paul Tay.
The forum begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Thomas K. McKeon Center for Creativity on the downtown campus of Tulsa Community College, 910 S. Boston Ave.
The forum’s other sponsors are The Frontier and TCC.
The format will be identical to the candidate forums the League sponsored for the sheriff’s election. Each candidate will be given time for an opening statement, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience, and then final statements.
Elizabeth Harris, board president of the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa, said in a prepared statement that enabling people to learn more about the candidates is an important part of encouraging strong voter turnout.
“Providing opportunities that allow the voting public to learn more about the candidates is important to encourage strong voter turnout,” Harris said.
Greg Stone, provost of TCC’s Metro Campus, said in a prepared statement that part of TCC’s mission is to better the community by stressing the importance of responsible citizenship.
“As a co-sponsor of the forum, TCC will demonstrate its commitment to creating an informed public as we approach the special election,” Stone said.
Security will be present at Wednesday’s event. On June 1, Tay interrupted a televised mayoral debate that was broadcast from TCC’s studios.
Tulsa voters go to the polls June 28 to vote in the nonpartisan mayoral primary. Should one of the five candidates receive more than 50 percent of the vote, that person would become the city’s next mayor and take office in December. Otherwise, the race would ultimately be determined in the general election in November.