If Republican candidates are being excluded from local political debates perhaps the party needs a change of leadership at the top.

The Democrat City Committee has opted to exclude the only Republican candidate for Ward 3, Jill Ussach, from it's candidates forum tonight and everyone is going ballistic over it.  Granted, it would make for a better debate if all of the candidates were invited to participate in the forum since the special preliminary election, scheduled for March 28th, is a non-partisan election, meaning the two top voter getters, regardless of party affiliation advance to the final election in April. But the Democrat City Committee is well within it's rights to promote the candidates it represents and not the opposing party's candidates.

For too many years the region has been denied multi-party representation, at least overtly, largely due to the weak efforts of the Republican party to recruit candidates and promote it's platform.  Republicans who do get elected do so largely in secret for fear that proclaiming their party affiliation might be the kiss of death.  At a time when Republicans have taken the White House, the Congress, governorships and statewide offices nationwide at a record clip local leaders continue to fail to try and market their party's message for change.

Here in  Massachusetts veteran Democrat lawmakers who recently voted themselves huge pay hikes would be ripe  for the picking but so far at least the Republican party has shown little interest in recruiting opposition candidates or even in speaking out against the entrenched politicians.  While nationally the Republican party has made great strides in winning over new voters, here they don't seem willing to even try.

While it is disappointing that all of the candidates for the Ward 3 race were not invited to tonight's forum the blame is as much that of the Republican leadership as it is the Democrat leadership.  As usual the citizens suffer.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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