Second Mayoral Debate Falls Apart In Ansonia

The second debate between Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti and challenger Tarek Raslan appears to have fallen apart, according to social media posts and emails to The Valley Indy.

The two-term Republican mayor and the Democratic challenger were supposed to debate 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at Ansonia High School.

Mat Hough, president of the city’s teacher’s union, was to moderate. High school students were to ask questions.

According to a post from Hough on Facebook on Thursday:

“For total transparency this is what transpired. Both candidates agreed to debate on October 26th. I asked both candidates if we could move the event so as to not interfere with an Ansonia football game. At that point neither the proposed date nor the agreed upon date were acceptable.”

John Marini, the Ansonia corporation counsel, is also Team Cassetti’s campaign treasurer.

He confirmed the the debate — at least in the form announced earlier this month — was off.

Marini said the proposed date had been changed twice, and that Cassetti became too busy the week of Oct. 23.

“The date of the proposed debate has now been changed twice and the Mayor has two presentations to prepare for that week: the State of the City on Nov. 1 and a Chamber of Commerce Leadership Conference on the 26th,” Marini wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, a petition appeared online Thursday “to keep the debate as scheduled and hold the Mayor to his word.”

The petition, according to the website, was created by Sennea Raslan, a Democrat running to represent the Fifth Ward on the Board of Aldermen. She is also the Democratic candidate’s sister.

The petition had 25 signatures 35 minutes after it was posted. Hough asked people to sign the petition, too.

An email seeking comment was sent to Tarek Raslan’s election campaign.

Raslan and Cassetti debated Monday during a debate organized and moderated by The Valley Indy.

The podcast version is embedded below. The story continues after the YouTube box.

Nearly 5,000 people have watched video of the nearly 2-hour debate online.

About 500 people left comments under the debate video.

Another 200 people downloaded the debate when it was posted as an audio-only podcast.

But the Ansonia High School debate was to happen in front of a live audience, while the Valley Indy’s debate was confined in person to two reporters and the two candidates.

The high school debate, presumably, would have concentrated on school district issues, which the Valley Indy debate covered only in passing.

A Timeline

According to an email chain Marini shared with The Valley Indy, Hough reached out Oct. 2 to propose a debate.

At that point, the possible dates were Oct. 24, Oct. 26 or Nov. 2.

Team Cassetti wanted Nov. 2.

Hough followed up with an email indicating Nov. 2 wouldn’t work for Raslan.

At that point the two sides agreed to Oct. 26.

The Valley Indy debate took place Oct. 9.

On Oct. 10, Hough emailed Marini saying the Ansonia-Seymour football game conflicted with the Oct. 26 debate. Hough suggested Oct. 24 or Oct. 25, with a preference for Oct. 25.

Marini said he would check the dates.

Hough emailed saying Oct. 24 didn’t work for Raslan. He suggested Oct. 25, or, if absolutely necessary, Oct. 26, the original debate date.

On Thursday at about 1:30 p.m., Marini emailed Hough saying Oct. 25 would not work because the mayor needed to prepare for the annual “state of the city,” scheduled for Nov. 1.

The original Oct. 26 debate date no longer worked either, according to Marini’s email, as Cassetti now has a presentation for Leadership Greater Valley, a chamber of commerce program.

“Given that the Mayor has already participated in a lengthy debate with the Valley Independent, perhaps the Mayor can engage the students in a different way,” Marini wrote to Hough in an email. “He would be happy to stop by the high school to take the student’s questions and speak about the electoral process. Certainly you could invite his challenger to do the same.”

In a Facebook comment under this article Hough said things went south after Team Cassetti suggested a guest moderator be involved in the debate.

“The Mayor was unavailable only after I was asked if I minded having a special guest moderator. My response was that I would be happy to work with their guest moderator, but it was important that our students write and ask the questions,” Hough said.

The email chain from Marini shows Team Cassetti received an offer from someone at Hearst newspapers to guest moderate. Hearst owns The Connecticut Post and The New Haven Register.

Raslan did not return The Valley Indy’s email Thursday, but his campaign released a statement on Facebook at 10:45 p.m. indicating he still intends to show up for a debate on Oct. 26. The post also linked to the petition.


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