Bill Daley drops out of Fox Chicago debate two hours before event

CHICAGO — A televised debate scheduled for Thursday evening on Fox 32 Chicago was expected to have the top five mayoral candidates, but Bill Daley dropped out just two hours before the event.

Only five candidates were invited to participate in the debate that will be televised at 6 p.m. Thursday. The candidates who were invited were 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.

Instead of the debate, Daley will be attending a Chicago Plumbers Local 130 union event where he will be endorsed.

His campaign said he cancelled because the televised debate only featured five of the 14 candidates for mayor — meaning nearly two thirds of those on the ballot were excluded.

The former U.S. Commerce secretary is facing scrutiny after a front page article in Thursday’s Chicago Tribune raised questions about how he passed the state exam to sell insurance.

The Tribune story raises the possibility that Daley received “inside help” to pass the exam, detailing how Daley’s powerful father – former Mayor Richard J. Daley – may have used his influence to have someone alter answers on the exam so that Bill Daley would pass.

One of Daley’s rivals in the race is Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who pounced on the controversy and released the following statement:

 “It’s disappointing - but not surprising - that Bill Daley, fresh off a bad front page scandal this morning, is now afraid to face Chicago voters in tonight’s debate. with this move, Daley has already made tonight's debate about himself - Bill Daley's inability to keep his word and his inability to face any sort of scrutiny.”

Mendoza’s campaign also weighed in with the following:

“With a career riddled with attacks on workers and women, and a campaign that has dodged question after question, Bill Daley is running and hiding from having to answer for his poor judgment and disastrous record. A thin-skinned, wannabe caretaker mayor is the last thing Chicago needs.”

On Monday morning, Amara Enyia and her supporters cried foul over only five candidates being asked to participate in the debate.

"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 was Paul Vallas, who along with Enyia, sent 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 excluded candidates argued that limiting the televised mayoral debate to just five of the 14 candidates on the ballot disempowers voters and limits choices.

The debate is being organized by the Lincoln Forum. Chairman Pat Brady said with a sprawling list of candidates, the smaller number of candidates should give the public substance over sound bites.

“I think you won’t be able to get the little sound bite snips going back and forth, they’re really going to have to get into deep discussions of their policies, which I think is beneficial to inform voters,” he said.

Lincoln Forum 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."

On Thursday morning, a handful of the excluded candidates attended a forum focused on small-business issues.

Excluded candidates Garry McCarthy, Lori Lightfoot, Enyia and Vallas have been invited to participate in a televised forum on Friday.

Daley is leading the race in fundraising and was second to Preckwinkle in a recent poll.

Vallas was added to the Fox Chicago debate, making him the fifth candidate participating.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.