District 1 commission candidate Matt Aitken was a no-show for two candidate forums Monday night -- one at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, another at Eastview Community Center in East Augusta.
They were the first two forums since the Nov. 3 general election, in which four candidates vying for Betty Beard's commission seat were whittled down to Mr. Aitken, the first-place finisher with 40 percent, and Bill Fennoy, who came in second with 32 percent. The two face off in a runoff Dec. 1.
At both forums, organizers said Mr. Aitken had declined invitations, saying he would only take part in a "meet and greet."
Reached by phone, Mr. Aitken said he had to work Monday night and couldn't have made either forum but that, regardless, he won't be taking part in any more debates.
"I don't think it would be productive," he said. "We have a city that's hurting, and I need to move forward with my campaign."
At Eastview, the meeting briefly became a symposium on the need for a black commissioner to represent a district that's 65 percent black. If Mr. Aitken wins Dec. 1, the commission's 5-5 racial balance will be tipped to 6-4 in favor of whites.
Another forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum.
Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.