The Democratic candidate for Erie County comptroller said Thursday he would relish the chance to debate the Republican incumbent before the Nov. 5 election, but the comptroller has consistently dodged the opportunity to go one-on-one with him.
Democrat Kevin P. Gaughan said the most recent rebuff came Wednesday, when County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw scuttled plans for the two candidates to appear together on WBBZ-TV with host John DiSciullo, insisting instead on taping an interview segment alone with DiSciullo.
“A candidate for public office should have the courage and conviction to state their view and defend their record alongside their opponent’s. Voters expect and deserve nothing less,” Gaughan said.
DiSciullo, who hosts a weekly show called “Political Buzz” on WBBZ, said he invited both men to appear on the political talk show for what he defined as more of “a structured discussion” than a classic debate.
“I wanted them to appear together on the show, but Stefan replied that he was not making any appearances with his opponent at this time,” DiSciullo said.
As a result, both men’s 10-minute segments with DiSciullo were taped separately, and will air at 9 a.m. Thursday and again at 11 a.m. Nov. 3.
“I think having the two of them together would have been interesting television,” DiSciullo said. “But viewers will still get to meet and hear from them separately.”
Meanwhile, Mychajliw insisted Thursday that he and Gaughan already have participated in several debates together.
“We’ve had numerous debates,” Mychajliw said. “There’s video proof that we’ve had one, and I’ve debated him 11 different times.”
Mychajliw provided a link to a video of a candidates forum where the two appeared recently in East Aurora.
Gaughan said their encounters were not actually debates, but various candidates forums in which they were each given about 2 minutes to present their platforms, along with several candidates running for other offices across the county.
“Stefan’s assertion that candidates forums are debates stretches the truth,” Gaughan said. “We have not had an open and full exchange in any debate.”
Gaughan speculated that Mychajliw seeks to avoid the specter of the challenger publicly raising questions about the comptroller’s past private employment record as a reporter at WKBW-TV and WGRZ-TV, and the circumstances under which he left their employ. Gaughan also called into question the current status of the comptroller’s association with Profit Media Group, a public relations firm that Mychajliw co-founded in 2011.
Though Mychajliw said he cut his association with the company before he took over as comptroller in January, Gaughan questions why the comptroller’s name and photograph still appear on the company’s website.
“If I had Stefan’s checkered employment history, I’d be hesitant to answer questions about it, too,” Gaughan said.
“It’s disappointing that an experienced public relations man is reticent to exchange ideas,” he added. “If and when Stefan changes his mind, I’m still ready to debate him.”