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Mayoral candidates see need for debates But Helfer and Brown disagree on details

The three candidates for mayor agree on the need for debates this election season, but common ground on their format proved a different matter.

Republican candidate Kevin J. Helfer started the process by proposing a series of debates with State Sen. Byron W. Brown, D-Buffalo.

"I believe the voters of this city deserve the opportunity to hear the different visions of the two major candidates -- myself and Sen. Brown," Helfer said.

Helfer emphasized the need for a direct discussion with Brown, proposing a format involving a moderator who would ask questions with time for answers and rebuttals.

While sources close to Independence candidate Charles J. Flynn said he had also explored debate opportunities Wednesday, Brown spokesman Steven M. Casey expressed reservations about limiting any debates to two people.

"We are obviously more than willing to debate," he said. "But at the end of the day, Charlie Flynn won his race and is on the ballot. Anyone who makes the ballot should be in the debate."

Casey said Brown has committed to one debate on Oct. 20 to be sponsored by WNED-TV and the League of Women Voters. Discussions are ongoing with other local television stations, he added.

Casey criticized Helfer for insisting on being included in debates and forums throughout the summer when he was technically not on any primary ballot.

"He's completely contradicting what he said in the primary campaign," Casey said.

Judith S. Einach, who is attempting to qualify for the ballot as an independent candidate, also criticized Helfer's position.

"He is neither anointed nor appointed to characterize this race to suit his needs," she said. "Clearly he sees his vulnerability in a four-person race and is doing everything he can, no matter how low-level, to reposition himself."

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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