By Jessica Mathews & Jon King /

Local Democrats are blasting Republican candidates running for most local political offices after they declined to take part in a candidate forum.

Livingston County Democratic Party Chairwoman Judy Daubenmier called it a “slap in the face to voters” and called Republican candidates “cowards” after saying nearly every Republican running for county-wide office, state representative, and county commission refused to participate in candidate forums sponsored by the non-partisan League of Women Voters. The League invited the candidates for the 42nd and 47th State House races, along with Prosecutor, Clerk and Register of Deeds to a candidate forum Monday night, with all of the Republican candidates saying they could not take part.

The 42nd State House race features Incumbent Republican Ann Bollin being challenged by Democrat Donnie Betts. The 47th State House race pits Republican Bob Bezotte against Democrat Adam Smiddy, while Republican David Reader is facing Democrat Ragan Lake for Prosecutor. Livingston County Clerk Elizabeth Hundley, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Jordan Genso while incumbent Republican Register of Deeds Brandon Denby is being challenged by Democrat Julie Hargenrader.

The only candidate to respond was Republican County Commissioner Bob Bezotte, who is running for the 47th District House seat. He provided WHMI a statement explaining that he had mandatory budget meetings Monday afternoon and evening. Bezotte also chairs the public safety committee, which met the same time as the forum. As for Republican incumbent Drain Commissioner Brian Jonckheere, he did confirm his participation in a forum that will be held Tuesday evening with his Democratic challenger, Andrew Nowicki.   

Meanwhile, Daubenmier also accused Republican Register of Deeds Brandon Denby of being absent on the job, saying that multiple people had set up meetings with him but “were always told he wasn’t in the office.” She also questioned Republican candidate for Livingston County Prosecutor David Reader’s motivation for seeking that office, alleging he may have done so to serve 18 months “in order to qualify for a pension and then resign so his friend and campaign treasurer” Carolyn Henry, could be appointed.

Daubenmier provided no evidence for her accusations. Denby, Reader nor Henry responded to a request for comment on the press release, which can be viewed in the attachment.