Republican candidates in House District 31 are straying from debates with former Republican and non-partisan incumbent Paul Seaton until the general election. A bipartisan debate leading up to the primaries was canceled after a Republican candidate pulled out of the event.
Republican candidates Sarah Vance, John Cox and Henry Kroll were set to square off Seaton during a Homer Chamber of Commerce debate on Aug. 7. Executive Director of the chamber Debbie Speakman said the debate will be rescheduled for the general election this fall.
“We got notice from a candidate that they would prefer not to a do a primary forum if it was not just the Republican candidates,” Speakman explained. “We decided to cancel that forum and just go with a general election candidate forum which will be held Sept. 18 at Alice’s [Champaign Palace].”
Speakman declined to say which candidate pulled out of the event, and both Vance and Cox did not return requests for comment in time for this story. Kroll said he didn’t pull out of the debate.
Cox was also scheduled to be on KBBI’s Coffee Table with Seaton and Kroll earlier this month, but pulled out due what he said was a “scheduling conflict.” Vance declined to come on the show.
Nona Safra chairs the District 31 Republican Party. Safra said local Republicans heard from all three candidates last month during the party’s own candidate forum and that the party has advised candidates to focus on the primary.
“I don’t see where them meeting up with Seaton before the primary election would be a benefit for them,” Safra said. “They can meet him after the primary and before the general election. It makes much more sense to do it that way.”
Seaton, who has always run on the Republican ticket, is running as a non-partisan candidate this year in the Democratic primary. He is unopposed in that race and will likely face one of the three candidates running in this year’s Republican primary.
There are also two candidates collecting signatures to run in the general election.
Seaton changed his political affiliation after both the local and state Republican parties target him and two other House Republicans for joining a bipartisan coalition in 2016, which took control of the House away from Republicans.
Primaries around the state will be held on Aug. 21.
Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, KBBI News would like to note that Homer Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbie Speakman sits on KBBI’s Board of Directors.