Republican candidates for the legislature in the 11th district were no shows an Ocean Grove Homeowners Association candidate forum, the second time they skipped a debate in the last three weeks.
Lori Annetta, who is challenging Senate Majority Conference Leader Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), and her Assembly running mates, Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperno, didn’t give a reason why they didn’t attend.
“I’m not able to put forth a theory as to why the candidates did not show,” Richard Williams, the association president, told attendees. “You’re all welcome to your own theories.”
Gopal was there with Assembly incumbents Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune) and Joann Downey (D-Freehold).
Earlier this month, Annetta, Eulner and Piper pulled out of the League of Women Voters debate after initially accepting an invitation.
Eulner and Piper pulled out first, with Annetta cancelling a few days later.
Under League of Women Voters rules, the forum had to be cancelled since they don’t permit “empty chair” debates with just one party or candidate.
The 11th was initially drawn to be Republican a decade ago, but Houghtaling and Downey flipped the Assembly seats in 2015 against two GOP incumbents and have twice been re-elected. Gopal ousted three-term State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) in 2017.