Anchorage mayoral candidate Amy Demboski is skipping several debates and forums where she would have shared the stage with her opponent, Ethan Berkowitz, leading up to the May 5 runoff.
The debates included one that focused on public safety. Demboski's decision, which a spokesman said was based on time constraints, prompted criticism from the leaders of host organizations. On Wednesday, NAACP Anchorage sent a statement to media outlets that called Demboski's declined invitation to its debate "a disappointment for Anchorage."
"The NAACP has high expectations of our citywide leaders to be responsible and inclusive of our extremely diverse and multi-cultural community," the statement said.
A spokesman for Demboski, David Boyle, said in an emailed statement saying that "it would have been Amy's pleasure" to attend the NAACP debate and she was grateful for the organization's work in the community.
"There are a significant number of debates and forums that Amy has committed to in the final weeks of the runoff, as well as a significant number that she has had to decline due to time constraints," Boyle wrote in the email.
Boyle did not immediately respond to a request for the list of events at which Demboski has confirmed her attendance. A spokeswoman for Berkowitz, Nora Morse, said Berkowitz's campaign has received confirmation that both candidates will be participating in Alaska Public Media's "Running," a KTUU-TV Channel 2 debate and an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce debate.
Morse said Berkowitz was scheduled to attend five other campaign debates or forums that Demboski either did not confirm attendance for or declined to participate.
In a Wednesday Facebook post, We Are Anchorage, a community group that formed in response to recent violence in the city, announced Demboski had declined an invitation to participate in a live, televised debate on public safety issues.
George Martinez, a founding member of the group, said it was a disappointing decision because of the group's focus on community engagement as well as public safety.
At another event Wednesday morning, Berkowitz was alone in addressing a group of nonprofit executive directors and chief information officers at the YWCA office on Fifth Avenue, which is directly across the street from Demboski's campaign headquarters. Hilary Morgan, the CEO of the YWCA, said the group had offered two different dates for the forum, but Demboski's campaign said the candidate had conflicts both days.
Morgan said the nonprofits had been looking forward to talking to Demboski about issues relating to their sector.
Both the NAACP and We Are Anchorage hosted forums leading up to the April 7 municipal general election. Demboski participated in the We Are Anchorage forum, but did not attend the NAACP forum, which was scheduled the same night as an Anchorage Assembly meeting.