Mayoral candidates excluded from Fox 32 Chicago TV debate lash out

CHICAGO — Five of the 14 Chicago mayoral candidates were invited to take part in a high-stakes televised debate, but those who were not invited are fuming.

Only five candidates were invited to participate in a Fox 32 debate that will be televised at 6 p.m. Thursday. The candidates who were invited were Bill Daley, Gery Chico, Susana Mendoza, Toni Preckwinkle and Willie Wilson. Fox 32 said they picked the top five candidates from a recent Chicago Sun-Times poll because they wanted a more manageable debate.

On Monday morning, Amara Enyia and her supporters holding “Let Amara Debate” signs cried foul.

"People are sick of the establishment and they’re sick of the mainstream media trying to decide the election for them," she said. "I’m calling out Fox News and demanding for a full and fair debate."

Also upset — Paul Vallas, who along with Enyia, is sending the TV station a cease and desist letter.

“This is the way it works. This is the Chicago Way. The pay to play culture, the machine they decide who the front-running candidates are,” Vallas said.

The two may not have been asked to participate on Thursday, but Enyia and Vallas were invited to a debate Friday with Lori Lightfoot and Garry McCarthy.

The candidates that were invited Thursday weighed in. Preckwinkle said, "The more candidates the merrier.” Daley said he wants all candidates included or a second forum for everybody else. Mendoza’s campaign said it supports Fox 32’s effort to have a smaller debate.

Also on Monday, Enyia used the new conference to answer questions about her personal finances. Over the years, she’s had to correct IRS filings and set up arrangements to retire unpaid tax debt.

“Yes, I have faced economic hardship much like most people in Chicago," she said. "I did fall behind on student loan payments and had to get on a payment plan."

Saying she’s not at all embarrassed, Enyia is owning her financial struggles.

"Many individuals are actually part of what’s called the gig economy. They are driving for Lyft, driving for Uber, doing Airbnb, piecemealing their livelihood and that actually makes yours taxes quite complicated," she said. "Having leadership in this city with immense wealth and stellar person finances has not prevent our city from being the brink of financial ruin."

Lincoln Forum, which partnered with Fox 32, said they informed candidates several weeks ago regarding the selection process. At that time, no one voiced any objection or concerns about how they would be chosen.

Lincoln Forum issued the following statement:

"The Lincoln Forum wanted to provide a platform to inform voters in the upcoming Mayoral election considering there are a record number of announced candidates.  Our solution was to host the top five candidates, determined by a poll, in a televised forum on Fox 32.

The Lincoln Forum notified all the announced mayoral candidates several weeks ago regarding the selection process for participants in the upcoming Candidate Forum. At that time no candidate voiced any objection or concerns regarding participant selection.

We are looking forward to hearing from the candidates later this week and achieving our original goal of bringing the perspectives of the candidates to all residents of Chicago through televised events."

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