In a story that’s continued to develop over the last several days, the city of Rochester will have a televised mayoral debate after all. Democratic incumbent Lovely Warren’s campaign confirmed late Thursday morning she would attend a debate hosted by WROC-TV and the League of Women Voters on September 7.

That production was originally scheduled for last week, but Warren had to pull out because of a “significant allergic reaction” that put her in the hospital for nearly a week. She also said she would not be able to participate in a second televised debate that was scheduled for Monday.

Her Democratic primary opponents, Rachel Barnhart and James Sheppard, both accused the mayor of sidestepping her civic responsibility. Warren maintained in a statement earlier this week, she was focusing on her health and caring for her daughter, but would continue to honor her commitment to participate in a Chamber of Commerce forum on September 7.  Spectrum News planned to help moderate that event.

The mayor also invited the chamber to modify its format to allow rebuttals and encouraged local media to work together to televise it. With it clear no other debate would come together, Barnhart also called on the chamber to turn their forum into a more traditional televised debate.

Chamber President Bob Duffy, in a statement Thursday, noted the forum was specifically meant to discuss issues important to its members and the questions were determined by a previously distributed survey. Given the unforeseen circumstances, he offered to cede the chamber’s time if candidates wanted to participate in another event.

“As a non-partisan organization, Rochester Chamber never intended our Mayoral Candidates Employer Forum to serve as a single-party debate,” Duffy said.

Warren’s campaign said contrary to “widespread reports,” she never said she wouldn’t participate in a televised debate and was grateful the matter was resolved.

“Friends of Lovely Warren has been talking to WROC since Monday about possibly partnering with the chamber and we are grateful now that chamber event has been rescheduled that News 8 and The League of Women Voters will be able to move ahead with their previously canceled debate,” the campaign wrote.
Sheppard, however, said the debate is happening because of the pressure the community put on the mayor. He thanked Duffy for his stance, which he said helped force Warren’s decision.

The former Rochester Police chief also addressed Barnhart’s criticism of him for refusing to participate in a debate without Warren.

“Despite criticism from some quarters, I have been firm in my resolve to keep the Mayor’s feet to the fire and hold out for a three-person debate that includes all of the Democratic Primary candidates. These have occurred for every single mayoral race since the first election in 1985. When an incumbent is in the race, it makes no sense to have a “debate” without them present,” Sheppard said. “To suggest that we ought to proceed without Lovely Warren in holding a debate designed to determine whether she has earned the right to be re-elected is, frankly, ridiculous.”

Barnhart, on Twitter, also thanked Duffy and the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, saying they deserve all the credit. The debate is scheduled for next Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.