For the record, Castle communicated with LWV president Peg Watkins at 3:30 Monday afternoon with an apology for having to skip the showdown with Republican opponent Mark White that he’d accepted some days before.
“He said he was very interested in having dialogue with citizens, but he had a conflict in his schedule that he couldn’t rearrange,” Watkins dutifully informed the audience at Germantown Municipal Center just before show-time.
The show went on, however, when independent candidate John Andreuccetti turned up. White, evidently anxious to have a debate with somebody, had called up Andreucetti on his cell phone to make sure he’d be on hand; Andreuccetti actually took the call on his way into the building.
The several Democrats present, most of them from the Germantown Democratic Club, were not eager to disparage their man for a no-show, but they made little effort to hide their disappointment (or, in one or two cases, their skepticism about the “conflict” in Castle’s schedule).
Several of them made a point afterward of commending businessman Andreuccetti, who was dependably conservative for the most part and genuinely independent, “sick of” both Republicans and Democrats, as he put it. But on a few key positions — notably the pro-choice side of the abortion issue and an aversion to the “ludicrous” guns-in-bars bill passed last year by a GOP-dominated legislature — Andreuccetti expressed positions the Democrats clearly found gratifying.
This was the second time in a few short months that the League had been unable to arrange a candidate debate so as to fulfill its stated mission “to expand citizen participation in the election process and in federal, state, and local government decision making.”
Brian Kelsey, the Republican who ultimately won a special election for state Senate District 31 on December 1st, had previously declined to participate in a would-be League forum with Democratic opponent Adrienne Pakis-Gillon. Now Democrat Castle’s last-minute dropout seemed to leave the League high and dry once more
But the consensus of those present, regardless of party, was that White and Andreuccetti had both acquitted themselves well, with neither sounding particularly knee-jerk or doctrinaire. White seemed very much on his game in his espousal of positions that were pro-business and opposed to an excess of government oversight. And he, too, was dubious about the guns-in-bars bill.
So spirited, frank, and genuinely dialectical was the discussion Monday night, in fact, that Castle’s absence seemed less and less important as the evening wore on — a fact that. may not, on the whole, augur well for his campaign.
The District 83 special election is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 12.>