LIMA — While Lima mayoral candidates David Berger and Keith Cheney held their first one-on-one debate Tuesday at St. Luke Lutheran Church, concerns over a future debate were already coming to the surface.
The Lima NAACP invited both candidates to a debate to be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 27 at Grace Church Worldwide Ministries. However, while Cheney has already confirmed his participation in the debate, which is described as focusing on minority-related issues, Lima NAACP President Ronald Fails has expressed doubts that Berger will do the same, especially given Berger’s absence from an NAACP-sponsored mayoral primary debate held in April.
“To date, we have not heard from the mayor’s office,” Fails said. “I doubt that we do, because the last time, this is what he did. He never replied, and when we finally heard something, he was having a meeting on the same night of the debate across town. It will be what it will be.”
When asked about his lack of a response to this invitation, Berger pointed out that the deadline to respond has not yet come.
“I did receive an invitation from the NAACP, and it indicated that I have until Sept. 18 to give them a response,” he said. “My campaign team and I are considering what that response will be, and that’s all I have to say at this time.”
Fails had originally said that the deadline to respond had already passed, but he later retracted that assertion, confirming the Sept. 18 response deadline, a change he attributed to a “miscommunication.” Fails also said that, should Berger decline to participate, the event will still be held as a forum for Cheney to express his perspective on minority issues.
When asked about concerns over participation in the NAACP debate, Cheney said that not agreeing with an organization’s leadership decisions is no reason to decline to participate in one of their functions.
“I have accepted every invitation to participate in debates since the beginning of this campaign, no matter who was sponsoring the debate or town hall, and I will continue to do so,” he said. “My campaign slogan of ‘A Better Lima for All’ means that I will be a mayor that will be inclusive of everybody.”