Sen. Brown rejects forum in Roxbury

Peter Van Delft | 9/19/2012, 8:25 a.m.

On September 26, a political forum will be held inside the Roxbury Community College Media Arts Center that will offer constituents the chance to solidify or perhaps even reconsider their intentions about which candidate they will select to represent them in Congress this election day.

 The forum is hosted by the New England Area Conference (NEAC) and co-sponsors include: ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development), the Black Ministerial Alliance, Community Change, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, the Madison Park Development Corporation, the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers (MAMLEO), MassVote and Oiste.

 With polling that shows challenger Elizabeth Warren beginning to take a slight lead over incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown with less than two months to go, and a critical voting bloc up for grabs, the forum will also provide candidates with a prime opportunity to make their case to the people.

 But according to Juan Cofield, President of NEAC, only one of the two candidates is scheduled to attend what will most likely be the only forum speaking to communities of color.

 Warren accepted NEAC’s invitation, responding shortly after the initial letter was distributed, Cofield said, while the deadline passed without a response from the Brown campaign. Extending the deadline in a last-ditch attempt to have Brown participate in the event, it was only after the extended deadline had passed that Cofield received a reply from Vincent Voci, Brown’s campaign scheduler.

 In his letter to Cofield, Voci wrote, “Senator Brown has committed to six debates, including the two radio debates. By Election Day, Senator Brown will have participated in six debates, the most of any incumbent Massachusetts senator in 16 years. This fall, voters across the Commonwealth will hear about the very important differences between Senator Brown and Professor Warren [...] Senator Brown has finalized the debate schedule for the 2012 campaign and respectfully declines your invitation to appear at a debate sponsored by the NAACP New England Conference.”

 To Cofield, Brown’s failure to recognize the importance of addressing a constituency that has historically been ignored — particularly by the Republican Party — is indicative of his values.  

“There is not another public event with a focus on people of color and it’s disturbing to me that he didn’t see it that way or has little interest, or not enough interest, to want to be a part of it,” said Cofield. “And, I think it’s a function of where he really is focusing his campaign. He has made a decision that it’s not worth spending any time with our communities and it’s so unfortunate. It says a lot about how he looks at communities of color.”

For Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, it is a perceived slight that may cost Brown this time around.

 “I think it’s a missed opportunity,” said Ellison. “I voted for him last election and part of the reason I did is that I felt that [then-challenger Martha] Coakley didn’t step up in communities of color and work for their vote. I think Brown is making a big mistake by not coming out and hearing what communities of color have to say.”