District 1 County Commission Candidate Merrill Paul Roland contacted Historic City News this afternoon to announce his decision not to participate in The Record editorial board forum — a video of which would be published on The Record’s website, staugustine.com.
In an interview, Roland stated that his decision was based largely on the fact that The Record’s editorial board made an early endorsement of his opponent, Cyndi Stevenson. In their Primary Election endorsement of Stevenson over former Tom Manuel campaign manager Albert J. Abbatiello, The Record made a remark that Roland says was unfair.
Roland says he asked Record Editor Pete Ellis to be able to debate along with Stevenson and Abbatiello and he was refused because, since Roland is running as an independent, his name would not appear on the August Primary ballot. Roland claims that Ellis told him that they would have another video taped debate with the editorial board before the November General Election.
The Record endorsed Commissioner Stevenson in the primary, but in a closing remark they published the following additional comment: “We recommend voters send Stevenson to the Nov. 4 general election and then elect her again to the County Commission.” Roland says that sort of prejudice amounts to what he called “yellow journalism”.
Roland insists that all he wants to see is “fair and unbiased moderators and debates”. He says that the Record can not afford him that opportunity, so he declined to participate in this afternoon’s event. Further, Roland told Historic City News that when he was first notified of The Record debate with Cyndi Stevenson in a e-mail from Margo Pope, he was informed that he could not bring anyone with him; the debate would be private and behind closed doors. The debate was apparently rescheduled from 3:00 p.m. today to 4:30 p.m. today to accommodate Stevenson’s schedule, however, Roland claims that he was never able to speak with Margo Pope by phone; having left messages on calls that he says were never returned.
Roland also wanted to inform the public that he is not trying to avoid a debate with Commissioner Stevenson, in fact, Roland has three debates scheduled — one of which will be televised locally. The dates provided to Historic City News were:
6:00 p.m. October 9th – Presbyterian Memorial Church on Sevilla Street
6:30 p.m. October 13th – North Shores Improvement Association, Vilano Beach
7:00 p.m. October 14th – St. Augustine Beach Civic Association – televised from St. Augustine Beach City Hall