[UPDATED] Is Challenger Sharon Quirk-Silva Afraid to Debate Assemblyman Chris Norby?

Sharon Quirk Silva fullerton 8.jpg
Sharon Quirk-Silva: Not in a hurry to debate
Update: See the end of post for debate organizer calling Quirk-Silva's campaign version of events dishonest.

ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 26, 2012 7:30 A.M.: With the Nov. 6 election approaching, the campaign of Republican state Assemblyman Chris Norby is questioning the political mettle of his Democratic Party challenger Sharon Quirk-Silva.

Both campaigns confirm that the Cypress Chamber of Commerce and the West Island Neighbors Group (WIN) extended invitations to appear at candidate forums.

But Silva didn't sign on for either and the reasoning for her hesitancy--odd especially because normally it's the challenger that demands multiple debates with the incumbent--is open to interpretation.

According to the webpage for WIN, which represents a large section of unincorporated Anaheim, Norby will appear at its special meeting tonight at 7 p.m.

"We invited his challenger, Sharon Quirk-Silva" reads the page. "But she declined to attend."

Norby spokesman John Lewis told the Weekly yesterday that the incumbent has been more than willing to face off with Quirk-Silva in the public realm, but the feeling isn't mutual.

"Third parties have tried to set up debates," Lewis  said. "Norby accepts. She declines."

Silva's camp says it's a matter of scheduling.

"To the best of my knowledge, we've had two requests," said Bill Wachob, a Quirk-Silva campaign spokesman. "(One) was from Anaheim on a night that Sharon had a council meeting. We told them she wouldn't be available and we never heard back." 

He explained that Quirk-Silva, who works a teacher with the Fullerton School District and is currently mayor of Fullerton, spends her free time vigorously campaigning, personally drumming up support by going door to door and meeting groups.

"The Cypress Chamber of Commerce had given us two or three dates and they cleared those dates with Norby," Wachob said. "They happened to be dates that Sharon was working."

But when the Weekly mentioned the message on the WIN group's website, whose event timing does not conflict with Fullerton City Council Meetings (held on Tuesdays), Wachob seemed perplexed.

"I guess I'd be surprised if they had it on their web site that she declined the opportunity to attend," he said.

Some criticize Quirk-Silva, who according to numbers release earlier this month, out raised Norby by more than $80,000, as being a bit of a fraidy cat.

This week on his Friends For Fullerton's Future blog, Tony Bushala, a vocal Norby supporter, published a post suggesting Silva's hesitance to engage in public debate stemmed from fear that she was being lured into a trap. "Some campaign flunky responded that it might be a trap to embarrass Silva," read the post which appeared with a photo of a running chicken. 

"She doesn't want to get smoked out on certain issues," Lewis said. "She's never taken a stand on Prop 30 publicly, but people who know her suggest she's enthusiastically supporting it." 

Yesterday however, Wachob confirmed to the Weekly that Silva does in fact support the proposition, which will raise state income tax 10 percent for people making more than $250,000.

"She said when people have asked her that she supports it. I don't know what else the assemblyman would be talking about," Wachob said, adding that if the right opportunity presented itself, Silva would debate Norby.

"(But) with 12 days left I don't know if we could find a mutually agreeable date," he said.

Perhaps as an attempt to goad the challenger into the ring, Norby's spokesman offered up some fighting words to draw Silva out of her corner.

"It's not a fair fight intellectually," said Lewis. "Chris is a brilliant guy, he understands government, he understands public policy, and Sharon Quirk Silva's just not as good on the uptick."

UPDATE OCT.29, 2012 12:30 P.M.: Nancy Francis, a community leader with the West Island Neighbors, told the Weeky that the Quirk-Silva campaign wasn't honest about the Democrat's alleged willingness to debate Norby.

"When I asked her to attend the candidates' forum with Norby, I said she could pick the date," Francis explained. "When they got back to me they said, 'There's no available time.' So her supposed willingness just isn't true."

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