Tito Jackson proposes four debates; Mayor Walsh wants two

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and City Councilor Tito Jackson.
John Tlumacki/Globe staff/file 2017
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and City Councilor Tito Jackson.

The saga over a mayoral matchup got even more tangled Thursday, with City Councilor Tito Jackson challenging Mayor Martin J. Walsh to four debates and the mayor sticking to his plan for just two.

“The people of Boston are owed an opportunity, and they deserve the opportunity to hear what each of us has to offer,’’ Jackson said.

The mayor’s campaign spokeswoman, Gabrielle Farrell, said Walsh has no plans to add more debates to his schedule.


“We made it perfectly clear that Mayor Walsh is looking forward to participating in two debates in the general election,’’ Farrell said.

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Walsh had also promised to participate in a debate before the preliminary election. He had received an invitation close to the Sept. 26 preliminary vote and said it was not possible to plan a debate before then.

Jackson said the mayor’s unwillingness to have a preliminary debate contributed to the lack of engagement and low turnout during the race.

“And frankly, it’s disrespectful,’’ the councilor said.

Walsh had challenged Jackson to two debates: one on Oct. 10 on WBZ News Radio with host Dan Rea, and a second on Oct. 24, on WGBH TV and radio, with hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. Jackson had not committed to those dates, and had said he was exploring other options.


(Since taking office, Walsh has been a regular monthly guest on “Nightside with Dan Rea” on WBZ and on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio, with Braude and Egan.)

But the debate next week was canceled after the union representing WBZ-TV technicians, photographers, and master control operators went public about their contract wage dispute and urged the candidates to refrain from appearing there.

Instead, Walsh now said he has accepted an invitation from The RoxVote Coalition, a group of nonprofits, businesses, and social justice organizations based in Roxbury.

His campaign said the mayor had intended to participate in the Oct. 11 forum all along but asked that the format be changed to accommodate a debate.

RoxVote officials could not be reached for comment. Jackson said Thursday he would participate in both the RoxVote and WGBH debates.


Late Thursday, the councilor sent an open letter to the mayor, challenging him to four debates and requesting a written acceptance within five days.

“Four years ago, you showed a great willingness to debate your opponent by participating in several debates in a number of different mediums and formats,’’ Jackson’s letter said. “I hope that you have not lost your zeal for engaging in a public exchange of ideas.”

Walsh’s campaign manager, John Laadt, responded to Jackson hours later, saying in a letter that the mayor is committed to the democratic process and has participated in mayoral forums — including one in Jamaica Plain Wednesday evening that also included Jackson.

“We understand your frustration with the state of the race so far,’’ Laadt said, in a reference to Jackson’s 30-point deficit in the race. “But Mayor Walsh has spoken to thousands of Bostonians about his plans for the next four years and will speak to thousands more before the election is over.”

Jackson told the Globe he is looking forward to the RoxVote and WGBH debates.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.