Sun-Times cancels mayoral debate after Preckwinkle won’t commit to showing up

SHARE Sun-Times cancels mayoral debate after Preckwinkle won’t commit to showing up

Lori Lightfoot (left) and Toni Preckwinkle | Sun-Times file photos

The Chicago Sun-Times canceled a mayoral debate scheduled for later this week because candidate Toni Preckwinkle was “noncommittal” about her participation.

The debate scheduled for Friday at the Sun-Times’ West Loop newsroom was set to be moderated by reporters, who operate independently from the Sun-Times Editorial Board that had already endorsed mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot.

But Preckwinkle’s campaign said it wanted to focus on other debates since the Sun-Times had endorsed her opponent.

“The Sun-Times invited Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle to debate each other at our office,” Sun-Times Editorial Page Editor Tom McNamee and Editor-in-Chief Chris Fusco wrote in a statement. “Lightfoot confirmed she’d participate, but Preckwinkle was noncommittal, so we decided Monday evening to cancel the event.”

Lightfoot won the Sun-Times Editorial Board’s endorsement ahead of last week’s municipal election that landed the former federal prosecutor in an April 2 runoff with Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president.

Preckwinkle’s campaign on Tuesday said it was prioritizing debates with other news outlets, including all five major local television stations and possibly the Chicago Tribune.

“Starting with the NBC debate Thursday night, we look forward to hearing corporate lawyer Lori Lightfoot defend her record representing a Wall Street bank accused of massive discrimination and of defending Republican politicians trying to hold onto their power,” campaign spokeswoman Monica Trevino wrote in a statement.

Trevino said Preckwinkle had committed to appearing at the TV debates, and discussions were ongoing for a debate hosted by the Tribune. The Tribune Editorial Board had endorsed Bill Daley for mayor before he was knocked out of the race last week.

Lightfoot, who finished first in the initial round of voting, said it was “insulting” that Preckwinkle wouldn’t debate her at the Sun-Times event.

“I’m disappointed that Toni Preckwinkle has declined opportunities to engage directly on issues of great importance to our city,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in a statement. “It’s insulting to voters and reflective of the closed-door style of politics we’ve got to leave behind us.

“In this movement-versus-machine election, we’re focused on sharing our new, progressive vision with voters across the city and engaging in substantive debates about the issues that matter most,” Lightfoot continued. “I hope Toni Preckwinkle reconsiders so we can have the debates Chicago voters deserve.”

McNamee and Fusco said in their statement that they invited both mayoral hopefuls to a pair of community forums hosted by the Sun-Times and AARP Illinois on March 13 and March 18. More details about both events would be released Wednesday, they said.

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