ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The two challengers in the Rochester Democratic mayoral primary are calling out the incumbent for not participating in a fully-televised debate.
"Choosing whether or not to participate in a debate is not campaign strategy, it's civic duty," candidate Rachel Barnhart said.
Candidate James Sheppard said if incumbent Lovely Warren is running on her record, it's important she answer questions about that record publicly.
"Through her three and a half years, anytime there was good news, she was quick to do a ribbon-cutting, quick to hold a press conference, and when there was bad news, she chose not to be visible and I think this is the time to be visible," he said.
Dealing with what her campaign called a "significant allergic reaction" that caused her to spend six days in the hospital last week, Warren pulled out of two debates. In a statement Tuesday night, a spokesperson declined to commit to rescheduling, noting doctors had advised the mayor not to make a full return to work and she was focusing on her health and caring for her daughter.
"I know that people have a right to privacy relative to their illness and I'm not going to say somebody needs to answer to me relative to those concerns but if it is a situation where there's more to add, it's up to her to make that decision," Sheppard said.
Sheppard and Barnhart questioned if health is truly the issue given Warren didn't pull out of a Chamber of Commerce forum next week. The event, which Spectrum News is helping moderate, is not a traditional format, nor will it be fully-televised.
"It is so frustrating that we're spending these last days debating debates instead of talking about really important issues to Rochester like growing our economy and reducing poverty," Barnhart said.
Meanwhile, she said Sheppard does not have the right to knock Warren when he is otherwise refusing to participate in a debate without her.
"Jim Sheppard is no better than Lovely Warren," Barnhart said. "He's a coward just like her. Neither one of them wants to debate me and this is terribly unfortunate."
Sheppard said he does not view Barnhart as a legitimate candidate because she does not have a record in public office to defend.