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Montgomery School Board Forum Canceled Due to Lack of Interest by Candidates

Posted September 14, 2023


The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area in partnership with The Montgomery News has canceled the Montgomery Township Board of Education Candidates’ Forum scheduled for October 2 at the Central New Jersey Television studios on Orchard Road in Skillman.


Of the six candidates running for three seats on the Montgomery school board, three candidates accepted the league’s invitation to participate in the forum. One candidate said no. Two candidates did not respond to four email invitations to participate by the league’s deadline, which was August 21.


“The candidates’ forums are a key element of the league’s mission to promote an informed and engaged electorate. They are opportunities for voters to learn about who will be on their ballots. When a candidate decides not to participate it is a lost opportunity for all voters” said Chrystal Schivell of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area. “A candidate declining an invitation to discuss the issues that matter most to voters is contrary to the public interest. It is the voters who are harmed and democracy suffers,” she said.


The following Montgomery candidates accepted to participate in the forum: Victoria “Cookie” Franco Herman, Christina Harris, and Zelda Spence Wallace. All are incumbents who are running together on a platform with the slogan “Champions for Students.”


The following Montgomery candidate declined to participate in the forum: Santi Buscemi. His response to the invitation: “I am sorry but I cannot attend.” He is running on a platform with a slogan of “Respecting Parents.” His two running mates, Deatte Gettinger and John A. Sangiovanni, did not respond to repeat email invitations. Sangiovanni later said the candidates on the “Respecting Parents” platform plan to conduct small group meetings with voters.


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Barbara A. Preston, editor of The Montgomery News, said, “It takes time to plan, organize, and promote a televised and live-streamed public forum, which also would have been available on-demand via the Internet to viewers.


“Without a commitment from at least four of the six candidates, the league and the newspaper could not move forward with hosting a non-partisan forum,” she said. “We regret that we will not be able to present voters with this opportunity to better know their candidates.”


All candidates did respond to a questionnaire. Profiles of each candidate, and their answers, appear on page 12 of the September newspaper.


The League of Women Voters takes no position on candidates for public office or on political parties. The league works to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government. The league is nonpartisan, working to empower voters and defend democracy through advocacy, education, and litigation, at the local, state, and national levels.

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