Incumbent commissioner and former Middletown Democratic Town Committee Chair Dan Russo, newcomer Robert Blanchard, and Wesleyan Professor Stephen Devoto, a successful petitioning candidate for P&Z, were to take part in the discussion. Paul Turenne, associate registrar at Wesleyan, replied to the Aug. 21 email invitation by saying he was unavailable.
The debate was to be held Friday and aired live on the local cable channel 15 at the Comcast studio in Cromwell.
"Given the short notice, the candidates were unable to reschedule their previous commitments," according to Daniel Pickett, chair of the Democratic Town Committee. "I did NOT direct the candidates, it was merely a matter of them unable to attend."
Devoto commented Thursday on the Middletown Patch article announcing the debate. "Apparently I am the only candidate who thinks Planning and Zoning is important enough to discuss in a public forum 12 days before the primary election."
The Wesleyan University Democrats had considered a primary debate but according to student Ben Florscheim, also a member of Middletown's Democratic Town Committee, with classes resuming Sept. 2 and accompanying flurry of activity, the event didn't seem feasible.
"We were hoping to have something to that effect but figured it would be too much of a push to have people come out on the first week of classes," Florsheim said, adding that expecting returning and new students to gather enough information to understand the issues surrounding the debate — and attending — was "too much heavy lifting."
"Practical reality got in the way," he said.
While a candidates' debate won't take place prior to the primary, Florsheim said WesDems will host a debate prior to the general election on Nov. 5.
On Aug. 18, the Comcast Public Access show "Common Sense" aired on Channel 15 with host James Streeto and Blanchard, Russo and Turenne, who discussed their interests in serving on the commission and their thoughts on issues facing Middletown.
On the Aug. 23 episode of Comcast Public Access show, "Today's Issues," Mayor Daniel Drew and Common Council Majority Leader Thomas Serra were joined by Blanchard, Russo and Turenne.
Devoto says he was not invited to participate in either of these televised discussions.
Longtime Middletown Common Councilmen Joseph Bibisi and Phil Pessina, whose Republican Town Committee caucus failed to nominate them for the November election, have also asked Working Families for its support.
They successfully petitioned this month to appear on the November ballot as independents, however since Bibisi and Pessina were nominated by the Realistic Balance party, they will appear on that party's line.
Registered Democrats can vote in the Sept. 10 primary election and unaffiliated party voters can register in person at the Middletown Registrar's office up until Sept. 9 at 12 p.m.
The secretary of the state's office also allows mail-in registration forms that can be downloaded and printed out to be accepted if postmarked five days prior to the primary. This year that is Sept. 5, according to Middletown's registrar of voters.
To find out where you vote on Sept. 10's primary election, the Middletown Registrar's office has the information.