CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- A Charleston mayoral candidate is calling for “fair, inclusive, and equitable” coverage after she says she and another Black female candidate were excluded from an upcoming forum.
The Tuesday night forum, hosted by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce (CMCC), was billed as an opportunity for leading candidates to “address their distinct viewpoints on a wide range of topics vital to the advancement of a flourishing business environment.”
Four of the six candidates who filed for the race were slated to appear: John Tecklenburg, William Cogswell, Clay Middleton, and Peter Shahid.
However, the other two candidates – Mika Gadsden and Debra Gammons – were not scheduled to attend.
Gadsden claims the organization’s decision to exclude the two women in the race was “irresponsible and discriminatory.”
“The Chamber wields a lot of influence and power,” Gadsden said. “They have a huge membership filled with many businesses here so they’re sending a very, very poor signal to the rest of Charleston saying that they’re choosing the winners of this race. They’re also choosing what electability looks like.”
According to officials, the organization used “several pieces of public and personal data in the criteria for selection” but no specifics were given.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the organization said it decided to postpone the forum to “allow for all candidates to participate and prepare,” but did not provide a reason as to why Gadsden and Gammons were not initially invited to attend.
The Charleston Metro Chamber hears and understands the concerns regarding tonight’s scheduled ACCESS: City of Charleston Mayoral Forum. Our program was designed to provide our members with a chance to hear from the leading candidates running for this position. We understand this created an environment that did not include all candidates. We are grateful for Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s ongoing support of the Chamber and the ACCESS series. Roper St. Francis was not involved in any programmatic decisions regarding the Mayoral Forum.
The Chamber has decided to postpone tonight’s Mayoral Forum to allow for all candidates to participate and prepare and will be announcing a reschedule date as soon as possible. The Chamber values the feedback we have received from the community and are committed to continuing to listen and grow as we collectively work to make our region equitable for all.
A rescheduled date for the forum has not been announced.