With only half the candidates committed to come, the gathering would lose the bulk of its objective — to bring parties together discussing and sharing views so voters can better decide what boxes to check on election day in November.

On Wednesday, the Shawnee Forward board was alerted to a second hiccup in their plan to host a local candidate forum this month, with The Shawnee News-Star as sponsor.

Republican candidates from two races won’t be there.

With only half the candidates committed to come, the gathering would lose the bulk of its objective — to bring parties together discussing and sharing views so voters can better decide what boxes to check on election day in November.

“We were very excited to work with Shawnee Forward to sponsor and host this forum,” Shawnee News-Star Publisher Kent Bush said. “It is very disappointing that candidates for public office wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity todiscuss important issues in their races. Our hope is that the details can be worked out and voters will get a chance to hear directly from all of the candidates.”

Candidates running for District Attorney for Pottawatomie/ Lincoln Counties are Democrat Adam Panter and Republican Allan Grubb.

Grubb immediately declined the forum invitation two weeks ago, Bush said.

When asked by phone Wednesday why he won’t be making an appearance at the event, Grubb declined to offer an explanation for his intended absence.

He said questions should be directed to his campaign coordinator, Neva Hill.

Hill was contacted.

Later, a written statement was received through Grubb’s law office email account that said, “I welcome the opportunity to relay my message to the voters of Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties. I hope that will include participation in a forum that is fair and balanced and includes all of the interested parties at the appropriate time during the election cycle. Until that happens, I will continue campaigning and knocking doors and meeting the voters of this district and sharing my vision for this community as the next District Attorney.”

Shawnee Forward CEO Tracy Qualls said there also was a scheduling conflict with another candidate.

Seeking the seat for state House of Representatives District 26 are Democrat Terry Hopkins and Republican Incumbent Dell Kerbs.

Though two weeks ago Kerbs had confirmed in writing that he would attend, Wednesday he said he has back-to-back events lined up that day that he had previously committed to.

“I had a conflict on the 25th; (Shawnee Forward) is working on a couple dates to try to reschedule,” he said.

Kerbs said one of the proposed dates shows promise.

Hopkins and Panter both said they are willing to attend the symposium whether their opponents come or not.

Bush, however, said the newspaper won’t sponsor a one-party forum.

Panter said the only person hindered by missing the event is Grubb.

“As D.A., the elected official is held accountable to the public,” Panter said. “Sharing platforms and positions have a direct effect on the race.”

He said voters should be able to hear from candidates to make their decisions at the polls. Hopkins mirrored Panter’s opinion.

“If your hat’s in the ring, you need to be there,” he said. “That’s the whole reason for a forum — to answer questions; you owe it to the public to be as open as you can.”

Now what?

The proposed gathering was already arranged; it was to be set for 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at Gordon Cooper Technology Center. But now the event needs to shift dates.

“We are doing our best to offer options to ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in our candidate forum,” Qualls said. “Our goal is to have the two D.A. and House candidates attend.”

As the leading business organization, she said Shawnee Forward continues to support a bipartisan agenda to be advocates for the community.

Watch for updates.