PITTSFIELD -- Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and Bill Shein on Tuesday criticized U.S Rep. Richard E. Neal for agreeing only to participate in two of six debates that had been proposed in the 1st Congressional District race.
Shein and Nuciforo said they’re disappointed they’ll only be debating Neal at a radio debate in Pittsfield and television debate in Springfield. Both are scheduled later this month. Six media-sponsored debates had been proposed before the September election.
In a statement, Nuciforo said he isn’t surprised Neal wants to keep the debates to a minimum.
Neal "sees the same data we see, and [it shows] that we have widespread support and solid positions on issues that resonate with voters," said Nuciforo, the Middle Berkshire register of deeds and former Berkshires state senator.
Neal "thinks he will lose fewer votes by declining most debates," Nuciforo added.
"We should have six debates spread throughout the campaign," said Shein, a writer and political activist from Alford. "Six would be a good number."
The Neal campaign responded by citing how the 24-year veteran of Congress was eager to debate his opponents.
"Congressman Neal always debates opponents during the election season and this year is no different," said campaign spokesman Matt Fenlon. "Neal was the first candidate to accept the dates in Springfield and Pittsfield as both involve multiple media outlets."
The three candidates face off Sept. 6. With no Republican or third party candidate in the race, the 1st Congressional District will be decided then.
WGBY television in Springfield will air a pre-recorded studio debate featuring all three candidates on Aug. 20.
On Aug. 30, Nuciforo, Shein and Neal are scheduled to take part in a studio debate at WBEC radio in Pittsfield. The live broadcast, from 6 to 7 p.m., will also air on radio stations WSBS in Great Barrington and WNAW in North Adams.
Organizers of the debate planned for Aug. 27 at Berkshire Community College before a live audience say Neal never responded to the invitation, sent out three months ago.
"We are disappointed that he decided against introducing himself to the voters of Berkshire County through an event in a neutral setting with free admission for the public and widespread media coverage," said Jonathan Levine of the Pittsfield Gazette.
The weekly newspaper, BCC and Pittsfield Com munity Television have collaborated to stage the debate, which may go on without Neal, according to Levine.
Fenlon wouldn’t comment whether Neal received invitations to or would consider participating in other political forums.
Nuciforo claims Neal has plenty of time to attend additional debates because Con gress takes a break during the election season.
"In fact, the debates were intentionally scheduled during congressional recess," Nuciforo noted. "By evading debates, the Congressman is doing a disservice to voters, and is further eroding faith in our democratic system."
Neal currently represents the 2nd Congressional Dis trict. The state’s Congres sional districts were reduced from 10 to nine and the redrawn 1st includes Neal’s hometown of Springfield as well as all of Berkshire County. Congress man John W. Olver, of the 1st Congressional District, is retiring at the end of the year.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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