MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - WMC Action News 5 and the Commercial Appeal have canceled the scheduled Sept. 19 Memphis mayoral debate after current Mayor Jim Strickland and former Mayor Willie Herenton declined to participate.
Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer and businessman Lemichael Wilson both agreed to participate in the debate before its cancellation.
Herenton, Sawyer, Strickland and Wilson were the only four candidates who met our fundraising criteria for the debate.
Herenton would only say he “respectfully” declined to participate.
In response, Strickland’s campaign opted out.
“We have been working with The Commercial Appeal, WMC TV 5 and the NAACP for weeks to make this happen, but without the top challenger in the race participating, an informed and balanced debate could not happen,” said a spokesperson for Strickland’s campaign.
When reached for comment Monday, Sawyer said, “By refusing debate — no matter the circumstances — Mayor Strickland and Herenton are denying taxpayers the right to hear where we all stand on the issues and make an informed choice on who will lead our city over the next (four) years.”
"It’s unfortunate that the citizens won’t have an opportunity to engage with mayoral candidates in order to share their concerns or to hear the candidates’ visions to address their concerns,” said Wilson.
WMC partnered on the debate with the Commercial Appeal, the NAACP Memphis Branch, League of Women Voters of Memphis-Shelby County and the University of Memphis.