Jesse Jackson and Alan Keyes - two candidates who had helped lend stature to a panel of lesser-known presidential hopefuls - will not attend the CityVote presidential forum in Spokane.
CityVote officials said Wednesday both candidates dropped out of the Sunday evening forum at the Spokane Ag Trade Center.
“They’ve backed out,” said Carol Simon, a spokeswoman for CityVote’s national offices in Irvine, Calif.
Neither candidate could be reached for a comment Wednesday. Simon said Keyes was canceling because other major candidates were not attending and Jackson cited a prior commitment.
The forum still will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, Simon said.
Barring further cancellations, the forum will include five candidates - Lyndon LaRouche, who wants to challenge Bill Clinton for the Democratic nomination, Republicans Chuck Collins and Art Fletcher, Libertarian Harry Browne and Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin.
Jackson sought the 1988 Democratic nomination, and currently heads the National Rainbow Coalition. Keyes, while considered a longshot compared to Republicans Bob Dole and Phil Gramm, is a radio talk-show host with strong support among conservative Christians.
Both are powerful speakers.
Candidates who previously declined invitations to attend may be given a chance to participate via telephone, through a satellite linkup, said Kim Boston of Cox Cable of Spokane, one of the forum’s co-sponsors.
The cable system and KXLY-Extra plan to broadcast the forum live in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, and make it available to Cox systems in 52 other cities.
Cox Cable and The Spokesman-Review, another co-sponsor, will continue to sell tickets to the forum.
Veteran television journalist Sander Vanocur will moderate the discussion of environmental and urban issues, and ask questions developed at more than 100 back-yard forums sponsored by The Spokesman-Review.
He may pursue an additional theme: the difficulty of getting major candidates to address city issues.
Spokesman-Review Editor Chris Peck said the problems with attracting candidates to the forum illustrate the shortcomings of the current political system.
“It seemed clear that some of the big names didn’t want to go through the process of addressing the concerns of real people,” Peck said. “They’re more interested in sound bites and paid messages.”
Campaign spokesmen for candidates who have declined the invitation have criticized the national CityVote effort for a lack of organization and questioned the value of results from the Nov. 7 straw poll.
Ballots in 18 cities will give voters a chance to choose one of 21 candidates for president. Some, like Jackson, Colin Powell and Ross Perot, have not announced that they will run for president, while California Gov. Pete Wilson remains on the ballot even though he has withdrawn from the Republican race.
Organizers say the ballot will provide a good bellwether of the preferences of voters in cities, who are often ignored in the early stages of the presidential campaign.