The Morris County Republican Party announced today that its candidates will not participate in debates hosted by the League of Women Voters (LWV), saying that the LWV is biased towards Democrats despite being a purportedly nonpartisan organization.
“I see no benefit to the Republican candidates to participate in this type of forum hosted by a league that has spent the last year advocating for progressive, leftist causes,” Morris GOP chairwoman Laura Marie Ali said in a statement. “We look forward to other opportunities to debate in forums that are balanced and fair and that give all candidates equal time to communicate their platforms and positions on local matters.”
Nancy Hedinger, the president of the LWV of Morristown Area, said in response that the decision was a blow to Morris County voters seeking to learn about their candidates for local and county office.
“When candidates refuse to participate in candidate forums, it is a loss for voters,” Hedinger said on behalf of Morris County’s three main LWV chapters. “The League has a century-long reputation of providing unbiased information to voters through candidate forums, candidate questionnaires, voter registration drives, and community educational events… Declining to participate in League forums does a disservice to Morris County voters.”
Ali claimed that the LWV has demonstrated a “distinct and overwhelming bias” and tilts its debate questions in favor of Democratic policies. She drew specific attention to the candidacy of Morris Township Committeewoman Donna Guariglia, a Democrat appointed to her seat last week who is running for a full term this November. Guariglia is a former co-president of the LWV of Morristown Area, a role she relinquished to take the seat on the township committee.
According to Ali, the LWV had proposed debates for county commissioner, where three Republican-held seats are up this year, and for nearly every contested local election.
In the absence of debates hosted by the LWV, which is often one of the only nonpartisan arbiters in local politics, it’s not clear whether any other organizations will step up to host Morris County debates.
This story was updated at 2:12 p.m. with comment from the League of Women Voters.