Mitchell resists challenger Travis’ debate invitations

left:State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) right:Jay Travis

left:State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) right:Jay Travis

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) has declined two chances to debate Jay Travis — but says he is open to the possibility.

“I look forward to these opportunities,” Travis said of planned March 1 and March 6 debates, in a Feb. 21 press release.

But Mitchell decided to skip Saturday’s candidates’ forum at Pullman’s House of Hope, hosted by SEIU Local 73 — which has endorsed Travis.

“I believe in debates as free and open forum, and when a debate is being hosted by somebody who’s already endorsed your opponent, that’s less of an open forum and more of a kangaroo court,” Mitchell said last Friday.

Mitchell also declined to participate in a debate being organized at the South Side YMCA, 6330 S. Stony Island Ave., by DeAngelo Bester, executive director of the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ).

Plans to host the debate there were still tentative two weeks ago, according to Bester, when he learned Mitchell would not be attending. The debate was going to be co-sponsored by WCRJ, the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Chicago, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation — for which Mitchell once was an organizer — and the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, which Travis once served as executive director.

A Travis campaign statement has framed Mitchell’s decision as a withdrawal, but the 27-year-old incumbent is scheduled to attend a General Assembly session that day and Bester said his campaign never committed to attending.

“We didn’t get a specific reason from them,” Bester said. “They just said they wouldn’t be able to make it.”

“I just think that it’s really important that voters in the 26th District have an opportunity to hear our positions on critical issues that matter to working families in the district,” Travis said last Wednesday. “I think it’s very much a part of the democratic process.”

“The voters ultimately should be the people who decide who the elected officials are, and not many of the billionaires that are bankrolling my opponent’s campaign,” Travis said.

Mitchell said he would debate under the right circumstances but will otherwise rely on campaigning to get the word out

“I’d sort of be open if a reputable group decided they wanted to do one, but short of that I’m going to take my case directly to the voters,” Mitchell said.

E-mail: j.bishku@hpherald.com

Twitter: @jeffhba