Zenkin Explains Withdrawal from Debate

By the Editors of The Bedford Citizen

As reported in The Bedford Citizen on October 20, Republican Walter Zenkin withdrew from the debate with Democrat Ken Gordon that had been planned for October 23, 2012. Both are candidates for State Representative from the Massachusetts 21st Middlesex district which includes Bedford.

The debate was to be sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Bedford with Town Moderator Betsey Anderson presiding.  Mr. Zenkin cited the involvement of Joan Bowen, wife of Gordon’s campaign finance manager, as a conflict of interest and his reason for withdrawal. Ms. Bowen had booked the room for the debate and made arrangements with the candidates as to date and time.

Zenkin also did not respond to the Leagues’ voter questionnaire sent to all candidates in August prior to the primary election.

Bowen has also been an active member of the Bedford League for over 40 years, was once League president and frequently has worked on League Voter Service projects. Activities of a spouse are not considered a conflict under the Leagues’ non-partisan policy. (Click https://lwvma.org/candidateforumspolicy.shtml) to read the Massachusetts League of Women Voters’ policy)

Both Mr. Zenkin’s withdrawal and Mr. Gordon’s comment are posted, in the order in which they were received by The Citizen, in the Campaign Communications section of our November Election page (https://thebedfordcitizen.wordpress.com/2012-election).

Editor’s Note: In full disclosure it must be noted that Joan Bowen is President of the 13-member Board of Advisors of The Bedford Citizen.

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Chris Gittins
October 23, 2012 10:13 pm

The Zenkin campaign misrepresents the issue as inside politics.

Here are the facts:
1) Zenkin’s stated objection to the debate was the participation of one member of the LWV.
2) That person was involved with logistics issues only. She was to have no involvement with the debate itself.
3) Following Zenkin’s objection to LWV sponsorship, the Chamber of Commerce suggested it could replace the LWV as sponsor so that the person who was the cause of Zenkin’s concerns would have no involvement of any kind with the debate.
4) Zenkin refused to participate even if the Chamber of Commerce were to sponsor the debate.

If Zenkin had any interest in providing the voters of Bedford an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates and evaluate their responses, he would have agreed to the Chamber-sponsored debate. He did not. There are two plausible explanations for Zenkin’s actions: Either he does not want to debate Mr. Gordon or he does not want to debate before Bedford voters. Neither explanation is acceptable.

Chris Gittins
Bedford, MA

PS The Citizen’s post above spares the Zenkin campaign further embarrassment by not repeating their original excuse for rejecting the Chamber’s offer. If you’d like to read that excuse for yourself, see the Burlington Union article here – https://www.wickedlocal.com/burlington/news/x1826358610/State-Rep-race-Oct-23-debate-cancelled?zc_p=1#axzz2AArqaQwc

PPS Zenkin’s campaign manager gave boston.com a different excuse for declining the Chamber’s invitation than he gave the Burlington Union (see https://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/bedford/2012/10/citing_conflict_candidate_pull.html). The story he gave boston.com certainly sounds less ridiculous. I have no idea which, if either, is true.

October 23, 2012 4:30 pm

Well, I must say that this reflects very poorly on Mr. Zenkin; frankly, this rationale makes him look like a petulant child. I had assumed something like a perfectly reasonable scheduling conflict had prevented his participation. Booking a room and confirming a time – essentially a minor secretarial role – hardly constitute a conflict of interest. I now can’t help but wonder if he was just looking for an excuse not to debate?