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Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul and her opponent for a hotly contested congressional seat, Chris Collins, will not appear at a “Meet the Candidates” night in Clarence tonight after all.
The Clarence Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event in conjunction with the League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.
Hochul and Collins were among the candidates scheduled to appear, but the pair had to be disinvited because of the event’s format, said Judy Sirianni, the Chamber’s president.
“League policy indicates we should only have candidates for federal office [participate] when it’s a debate format,” said Terri Parks, president of the League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara.
Collins and Hochul were scheduled to speak at different times on the event’s schedule, said James Bennett, who serves on the Chamber’s board of directors.
The event’s ground rules call for it to be a dialogue “between the audience and the candidates. It is not a debate.”
Candidates will make two-minute opening statements. Then they will answer questions provided by audience members, and make two-minute closing statements.
The national League of Women Voters’ website explains its view of “non-debate” candidate appearances, such as forums and speeches. “Both may be considered contributions subject to campaign finance limitations or as illegal corporate contributions to a federal candidate if your League does not adhere to all (Federal Election Commission), (Federal Communications Commission) and IRS guidelines when hosting activities for federal level candidates,” the website says.
Parks said League rules for federal candidates also stipulate at least two candidates for the same office must participate, so the organization had to cancel Hochul’s appearances at two other League events because Collins was not planning to attend.
Colia Clark, a candidate for U.S. Senate on the Green Party line, also will not speak at the Clarence forum.
Six other candidates for office, running at the town, county and state level, are still scheduled to appear tonight.

mglynn@buffnews.com