The candidate challenging Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant for her 2nd District seat in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary will not attend a scheduled debate with Grant on Wednesday.
Joyce Wilson-Nixon, executive director of National Inner Cities Youth Opportunities, plans to bow out of the candidates’ forum because Grant is both a member and the founder of the group sponsoring the event, We Are Women Warriors, according to Wilson-Nixon’s husband, Jeff Nixon.
“Obviously, this is a partisan political group,” he said.
The group has been actively campaigning for Grant’s re-election, he said, and is also supporting the campaign of Buffalo mayoral hopeful Bernard Tolbert in his bid to unseat Mayor Byron W. Brown in the Democratic primary.
“Mrs. Grant and her We Are Women Warriors rallied behind Mr. Tolbert when the Buffalo News wrote about sexual harassment lawsuits filed by women that worked under him while he was the senior vice president of NBA Security. Now, Mrs. Grant is using her We Are Women Warriors organization to stage an election debate at the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library on Aug. 21st,” he wrote in an email to The News.
Grant on Tuesday said a group called Women for Bernie Tolbert rallied behind the candidate, not We Are Women Warriors. She insisted that the warriors group, which she founded three years ago, is nonpartisan and that no advantages will accrue to her during the debate because of her connection to the group.
“I don’t get any special privileges because I founded the group,” she said.
The program will feature candidates for the Erie County Legislature who are vying for seats in districts that are located either wholly or partially within the boundaries of the city.
It is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Merriweather Library at 1324 Jefferson Ave. and will be moderated by local media personality Mary Davis, who said she is not a member of We Are Women Warriors.
Grant said that while her group is sponsoring the event, all of the questions posed to the candidates will come from Davis and members of the public who attend the event.
“I find it hard to believe that, as the founding member of the group, Mrs. Grant won’t have pre-debate access to the questions. That just doesn’t pass the smell test to me,” said Nixon, who is a former professional football player who played with the Buffalo Bills from 1979 to 1984.
“We’re not going to participate,” Nixon added. “And when my wife doesn’t show up, she’s going to be criticized for it.”
Karla Thomas, a legislative assistant to Grant, who also is a member of We Are Women Warriors and the coordinator of the event, said the forum was not specifically set up to coincide with all of the candidates’ schedules. Some of the others who were invited also declined the invitation to participate because of conflicts with their schedules, she said.
“The object of this event is to give the candidates an opportunity to share their platform with the people who are going to be voting for them,” Thomas added.