A scheduled forum that would have given the two San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors District 5 candidates a chance to discuss the issues was abruptly cancelled less than two hours before it was to go live last week.
The Tracy Chamber of Commerce, host of the event along with the Tracy Press, was set to have the online forum from WorkVine 209 on Oct. 8, but cancelled the event after it became clear that the two candidates, Tracy Mayor Robert Rickman and Tracy City Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom, could not agree on the moderator for the forum. The two candidates also do not agree on which one of them ultimately backed out.
Ransom confirmed afterward that she had asked for another moderator because Mike Anderson, moderator of the forum for Tracy City Council candidates two weeks before, was scheduled to host the forum. Anderson is a Gold Star father of a U.S. Marine who was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.
Ransom said her campaign also had identified Anderson as a possible Rickman supporter. Anderson is San Joaquin County Third District Supervisor Tom Patti’s chief of staff, and Patti has supported Rickman’s 2020 campaign with $1,766 worth of donations, including an in-kind donation of food for a campaign event, worth $1,000, on Aug. 14.
“I just don’t feel comfortable having my opponent’s supporter, who is helping to elect him, moderating the forum,” Ransom said.
“They had known from the very beginning the concerns with the moderator’s appointment, and the chamber offered us alternatives, so I was fine with the alternative,” Ransom said.
“The official story is we could not agree on the moderator, but the actual story is I requested a neutral moderator who was not associated with either of our campaigns, and the chamber agreed with that.”
“They said, ‘We’ve offered the alternative.’ I said, ‘I’m fine with any alternative that you have,’” Ransom said.
Chamber CEO Tamra Spade confirmed that she found an alternate moderator, noting that Anderson had been out of town the prior week, and Spade moderated the forum for the mayoral candidates on Oct. 1. Spade said that two days before the Oct. 8 supervisorial candidate forum she confirmed that Dylan George, a Modesto resident who works in government affairs for PG&E, would be available to moderate the forum.
“I reached out to Mayor Rickman and said, ‘This is who we have. Are you comfortable?’” Spade said, referring to an email exchange that they had. “He wrote back and said, ‘Mike Anderson should be doing this. This is not right.’”
Spade added that chamber board president John Palmer also reached out to Rickman, who responded that he would not be coming to the forum.
Rickman said on Monday that he did not object to having George as the moderator, and found out on Oct. 7, the day before the forum, that the chamber made the change at Ransom’s request.
“The only thing I said is that this wasn’t fair to Mike Anderson. Here you have a guy who has been scheduled on this for three or four weeks, and at the last minute, on Oct. 7, he finds out that he’s not doing it,” Rickman said.
“I never objected. I would have went through with it, but at the end of the day, if you’re going to do something like this you don’t wait until the day before.”
Spade said that it’s unlikely there will be a District 5 Supervisorial candidate forum within the next two weeks leading up to Election Day.
“We looked at rescheduling but I don’t even know if that’s a consideration at this point.”
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