Republican council candidate declines to participate in Princeton candidates’ forum

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Republican council candidate Lisa Wu passed on a chance to participate in a forum with her two Democratic opponents, with the organizer of the event saying this week that the forum would not go forward.

Wu became the latest Republican office-seeker to bypass the candidates’ night the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area organizes. Though not technically a debate, the event gives candidates an opportunity to answer questions about local issues ahead of the election.

Chrystal Schivell, a member of the League of Women Voters, said on Oct. 3 that Wu had sent her an email in which Wu said she was declining to participate.

“I didn’t ask for a reason why,” Schivell said when asked if Wu had explained her decision.

Wu, who could not be reached for comment, is running against Democrats Eve Niedergang and Dwaine Williamson for two council seats in the Nov. 6 election. She does not have a running mate.

Niedergang said on Oct. 3 that she and Williamson had indicated to the League of Women Voters that they are willing to participate in the forum.

“I would love to have a chance to discuss the issues from different perspectives and see what ideas Lisa would bring to the table,” Niedergang said.

For the forum, the League of Women Voters was not going to have an event with just two candidates.

“We always have to have one more person than there are seats available,” Schivell said. “In other words, we have to have three people for two openings.”

Williamson could not be reached for comment.

Wu’s decision is part of a trend. Republican candidates for council and higher office have not participated in “local League of Women Voters forums for several years,” Princeton GOP Chairman Dudley Sipprelle said on Oct. 3. He declined to explain why.

Asked if he believes the group is biased against Republican candidates, he said, “I wouldn’t say that.”

In 2015, the two Republican council candidates did not participate in the League of Women Voters forum.

In 2016, no Republican ran for council, but the Republican mayoral candidate, Peter Marks, participated in the forum against Democrat Mayor Liz Lempert.

In 2017, no Republican ran for council.

The League of Women Voters managed to get candidates in another local contest to participate in a forum, however. The organization was scheduled to have a candidates’ night on Oct. 4 for the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education race, in what is a five-way contest for three seats.

As for the council race, Princeton Democrats have won the general election by wide margins given the edge they hold in registered voters. Typically, the Democratic primary decides who wins the general election in November.

This year, council members Heather H. Howard and Lance Liverman announced they would not seek re-election. Their decision opened the door for two newcomers to join the six-member-council, where Democrats hold all the seats.