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League of Women Voters Greenwich local candidate debates canceled

People vote in Detroit during the March 10 Michigan primary. A new survey has identified a group of persuadable voters dubbed "guardian women" who could decide which party wins key states like Michigan and the election.
JEFF KOWALSKY
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AFP via Getty Images
Voters cast their votes at an early voting center.

For the first time in recent history the Greenwich, Connecticut, League of Women Voters will not host a debate for local candidates running for state office. Partisan national midterm election issues might be to blame.

Sandy Waters, president of the League of Women Voters Greenwich, was surprised when she heard the four Greenwich Republicans running for seats in the state House and Senate had declined to participate in local debates organized by the league.

“This is the first time when the party has actually said no candidate will participate in a league debate,” she said.

It was an individual candidate decision not a party decision, said Peter Sherr, one of the four Greenwich Republican nominees.

“Republicans, who I am running with, we decided this year that we would participate in nonpartisan forums to lower the political temperature,” said Sherr, the GOP nominee for the 151st House District in Greenwich.

The league, particularly in Greenwich, had been taken over by liberals, he alleged. “For a longtime the league in Greenwich was truly bipartisan and nonpartisan. But over the last few years that’s changed. If you look at the composition of their board of directors now, there are 18 members, there’s only one Republican and there are 12 Democrats.”

“If you look at the state board of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, it's comprised of 8 registered Democrats, there are no unaffiliated or Republicans,” he added.

The league is a national nonprofit organization with chapters across the U.S. that provide resources and election guides to voters to make informed decisions at the ballot box, said Waters, pushing back on the accusation that the league is partisan.

The League of Women Voters was created during the women's suffragist movement in the 1920s. And all local leagues, including in Connecticut and Greenwich, are responsible for safeguarding their nonpartisan policy and the organization’s nonpartisan reputation, she said.

Many of the issues supported by members of the league may be viewed as liberal, “Like we supported the continuation of Roe v. Wade for example" said Walters. "There are others who do not agree with that. We do support and advocate for certain issues but when it comes to a candidate for political office, we do not support any political candidate, one way or the other.”

Even though they won’t hold local political debates this fall, the league is still committed to educating voters with its voter guides.

“In Greenwich it would be for a variety of districts, and it’ll tell you who the candidates are and what they think on a series of answers to our questions,” said Waters.

Republicans said the voter guides are also a concern. It would be helpful if it is for purposes of educating voters — which I believe they are committed to in their mission — that they would only provide truthful information to voters,” Sherr said.

Good information on the candidates and issues is important since historically less than 40% of eligible voters show up to cast a ballot in midterm elections, he said.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.