Incumbent Deb Denys ignores invite for internet newspaper debate tonight in Oak Hill; Pat Northey skipping Wednesday

David Machuga and Justin Kennedy raring to go; same with Webster Barnaby and at-large incumbent Joyce Cusack tomorrow night

Deb Denys is skipping the 2014 debate in Oak Hill with Justin Kennedy / Headline Surfer®David Machuga / Headline Surfer®Headline Surfer® photo /
Then-district 3 County Council candidate Deb Denys, shown in this image from a 2012 internet newspaper public candidate debate in New Smyrna Beach with fellow challengers Jim Hathaway, then a New Smyrna Beach city commissioner and Justin Kennedy, then-an Edgewater city councilman. Denys, who won the run-off that November over Hathaway after a second debate in Oak Hill in the weeks leading up to the general election, has ignored repeated solicitation for her participation as the incumbent in tonight's debate in Oak Hill. Her opponents, Kennedy and newcomer David Machuga of New Smyrna Beach, shown in the inset, didn't hesitate to participate in the debate, the first of this 2014 election season. 
 

OAK HILL -- City Commissioner and Vice Mayor Jeff Bracy thinks it's disgraceful that District 3 County Councilwoman Deb Denys has shown no interest in tonight's public candidate debates sponsored and moderated by Headline Surfer® at City Hall in Volusia County's smallest and most-often neglected city, which doesn't even have water and sewer in a 21st-century world.

Repeated attempts by the 24/7 internet newspaper that began with an email to the entire County Council more than a week ago have gone unanswered. Denys was informed she had until noon Sunday to let the internet newspaper know whether she was going to take part in the 7 p.m. debate in the Oak Hill City Chambers, 345 US 1.

Calls also were made to Deny's proxy, Stanley Escudero, as late as Sunday afternoon to the former chairman of the Volusia County executive committee and a major donor to Denys' campaign and one of her key advisers. Those calls, too, went unanswered.

"Denys only comes to Oak Hill when she wants something from us or to make herself look good," Oak Hill's Bracy told Headline Surfer®. "We are part of her district and she is showing she doesn't want to face the citizens down here. The last time she came to a commission meeting, she tried to shove the space port at Shiloh down our throats and getting all the fishermen mad while giving us nothing in return."

Oak Hill Commissioner and Vice Mayor Jeff Bracy / Headline Surfer®Oak Hill City Commissioner and Vice Mayor Jeff Bracy  says he's no fan County Councilwoman Deb Denys, especially since she has ignored an invitation to participate in tonight's HeadlineSurfer.com Public Candidate Debate at the Oak Hill City Hall with her challengers David Maxhuga and Justin Kennedy in the 2014 elections.

"Denys only comes to Oak Hill when she wants something from us or to make herself look good," Oak Hill's Bracy told Headline Surfer®. "We are part of her district and she is showing she doesn't want to face the citizens down here. The last time she came to a commission meeting, she tried to shove the space port at Shiloh down our throats and getting all the fishermen mad while giving us nothing in return."

Several private aerospace companies have targeted the Shiloh environmental land preserve that straddles the Volusia and Brevard County lines as a launch site, something Denys has lobbied heavily for. But Oak Hill residents first told her at a commission meeting early last year they weren't interested and hundreds showed up at the Brannon Center at a meeting held by State Sen. Dorothy Hukill and Denys that turned into a shouting match.

With the prognosis for Shiloh dimming, Bracy believes Denys has egg on her face and doesn't want to have to deal with the naysayers telling her, "I told you so."

Justin Kennedy of Edgewater, who ran against Denys in a three-way primary two years ago, and newcomer David Machuga of New Smyrna Beach, both said they were looking for a spirited three-way debate.

"She's the incumbent and if she's not here, that says a lot about the campaign," Machuga said. 

Kennedy was even more biting in his assessment: "Let's face it. She's afraid to debate either Dave or myself," Kennedy said, "because at the end of the day, what has she really accomplished?"

Like Denys, term-limited Councilwoman Patricia Northey avoiding debate Wednesday in at-large race with incumbent Joyce Cusack & fellow challenger Webster Barnaby

Webster Barnaby, Pat Northey & Joyce Cusack / Headline Surfer®Patricia Northey, shown in the center here, finds herself in controversy as she's skipping Wednesday night's HeadlineSurfer.com Public Candidate Debate with Webster Barnaby and incumbent Joyce Cusack.

Like Denys, another high-profile politician is not showing up for the second of two nights of debates in Oak Hill.

Patricia Northey, the term-limited District 5 Councilwoman from Deltona, now in her 20th year on the dais, is skipping out on the debates.

Northey, a registered Democrat, is running for the at-large seat held by Joyce Cusack of DeLand, who is seeking her second four-year term. The third candidate is Deltona City Commissioner Webster Barnaby.

While Cusack and Barnaby agreed immediately to take part in the debates, Northey was silent despite repeated attempts by Headline Surfer® via email, text messaging, Facebook messaging and call phone voice mil messaging. Finally, after being pressed in writing one last time just before noon Sunday for an answer, Northey wrote back, ""No, I have a conflict and will not be joining the debate."

Headline Surfer® wrote back immediately asking what the conflict was, but Northey didn't respond.

Barnaby said he wasn't surprised with Northey's decision.

"It's obvious she doesn't want to stand up and defend her record, which is abysmal," Barnaby said, adding she's shown by her own action in her candidacy against a same-party incumbent that she's desperate to keep that government paycheck going another four years while collecting a pension.

Webster Barnaby / Headline Surfer®Webster Barenaby, the first-term Deltona commissioner challenging incumbent Joyce Cusack of DeLand for her at-large County Council seat, said he's not surprised fellow challenger and term-limited district 5 Councilwoman Patricia Northey of Deltona is skipping out on Wednesday night's HeadlineSurfer.comn Public candidate debate ast Oak Hill City Hall.

"It's obvious she doesn't want to stand up and defend her record, which is abysmal," Barnaby said, of Northey and her 20 years on the county council dais, adding she's shown by her own action in her candidacy against a same-party incumbent that she's desperate to keep that government paycheck going another four years while collecting a pension.

Though seats are term-limited after eight years, Northey has managed to jump from one seat to another. She and Cusack are registered Democrats while Barnaby is a Republican.

Northey's decision to run against her party mate is unprecedented, even for Volusia County.

Asked what she thought of Northey's decision to skip out on the debate, Cusack responded, "She's not even worthy of a comment right now. I'm going to go to the debate in Oak Hill and talk about my record and why I want to continue representing the citizens of Volusia County."

Joyce Cusack / Headline Surfer®Joyce Cusack, the incumbent at-large county councilwoman from DeLand and a native of New Smyrna Beach, said she's, too, is not surprised that rival Patricia Northey is not willing to debate her or fellow candidate Webster Barnsaby in Oak Hill.

Asked what she thought of Northey's decision to skip out on the debate, Cusack responded, "She's not even worthy of a comment right now. I'm going to go to the debate in Oak Hill and talk about my record and why I want to continue representing the citizens of Volusia County."

Headline Surfer® was granted the opportunity from Oak Hill City Clerk/Administrator Kohn Evans exclusive use of the City Commission chambers from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. Headline Surfer® held three debates in one night in Oak Hill in 2012, among the internet newspaper's 18 overall public candidate debates in that election cycle, including the primary and general election.

The internet newspaper has had all but one candidate not show up previously, even dating back to two debates for three municipal races in New Smyrna Beach back in 2009.

That candidate was then-City Commissioner Linda Hyatt who didn't show up for her debate against colleague Doug Gibson in a race for Oak Hill mayor in her own chambers, which led to her election defeat. Hyatt, a candidate this time around in a three way race for a city commission seat, said she regretted skipping the debate and is ready this time around.

The seat 3 Oak Hill City Commission debate is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday as the lead-in to the at-large county council debate. Hyatt and fellow challenger Lyn Seward have committed to participating, but incumbent Ron Engele, has not responded to multiple inquiries.

Denys participated in two Headline Surfer® debates in 2012, the first in a primary debate leading up to that vote at the Brannon Center in New Smyrna Beach against Kennedy, then an Edgewater city councilman, and against then-longtime New Smyrna Beach City Commissioner Jim Hathaway. He won the primary with Denys finishing second, and as a result, both moved on to the general election run-off.

This led to a second Headline Surfer® debate between Hathaway and Denys in the Oak Hill City Chambers. Denys prevailed in November, having portrayed herself as an outsider and her opponent as the ultimate insider, even pointing to the support he was receiving from New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer, a registered Republican.

Kennedy said the roles have changed and it's Denys who has proven herself to be the "ultimate insider," forming a strong alliance with Barringer as well as a voting pact with three others on the council in Republican Pat Patterson of DeLand, Democrat Doug Daniels of Ormond Beach and Northey.

Ironically, Hathaway is running for Barringer's mayoral post with the incumbent mired in personal tax debts and a lingering scandal in the police department with 940 items reported as missing or stolen from the NSBPD evidence room. Hathaway is being challenged by two-term commissioner Jack Grasty.

And while Barringer faced ethics charges for a retirement party for Hathaway after the loss to Denys in 2012, Denys now finds herself facing elections violations charges, including an allegation that she under-reported alcohol purchases and food at a fundraiser Barringer hosted for her earlier this year.

The debate schedule is as follows, tonight:

-- 5:30-6:30 p.m. Candidates from other races throughout Volusia County welcomed to stop in and introduce themselves in front of the citizens attending and the video camera.

-- 6:30 - 7 p.m. 1st public candidate debate: Oak Hill Commission seat 1:

Jupp O. Norhaussen, challenger; Kathy Bittle, incumbent. Bittle will not be attending because of a medical issue so Headline Surfer® will allow a stand-in of her choice to fill in for her, which will be her husband, Gary Bittle, himself a former city commissioner.

-- 7:15 - 8:15 p.m. 2nd public candidate debate: Volusia County Council district 3 seat: Justin Kennedy, challenger; David Machuga, challenger; Deb Denys, incumbent (Denys did not return respond to numerous solicitations to attend and was given until noon Sunday for a response).

WEDNESDAY

-- 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Candidates from other races throughout Volusia County welcomed to stop in and introduce themselves in front of the citizens attending and the video camera.Depending on how many candidates show up, each candidate will have between 5 and 15 minutes.

-- 6:30 - 7 p.m. 1st public candidate debate: Oak Hill Commission seat 3:

Linda Hyatt, challenger; Lyn Seward, challenger; Ron Engele, incumbent.

-- 7:15 - 8:15 p.m. 2nd public candidate debate: Volusia County Council at-large seat:

Webster Barnaby, challenger; Patricia Northey, challenger; Joyce Cusack, incumbent.

The rules are simple: -- Show up on time, be transparent (no question asked by the moderator should come as a surprise will be a surprise or a gotcha; personal attacks in audience won't be allowed nor will any rude or demonstrative behavior -- booing, clapping, cheerleading, etc);

-- Candidates will be seated on the dais alphabetically with incumbent in the middle.

Each candidate will have their name on a white cardboard placard, along with seat and designating challenger or incumbent;

-- The moderator has final say on any conflicts;

-- Business dress attire is expected of the candidates;

-- The Audience will be able to ask questions in the final segment of each debate;

-- Any candidate who doesn't show up will be identified by the moderator as a no-show and the the placard with their name in front of empty seat will remain. There are no games;

-- The debate will be videotaped and placed on HeadlineSurfer.com® for publication online and on YouTube;

-- Joining the moderator, Headline Surfer® Publisher Henry Frederick on the panel asking questions of the county council candidates tonight and Wednesday is chief political blogger Dana Swanson. Headline Surfer® political blogger Cory Thompson will be on Wednesday's panel with Frederick and Swanson. Multimedia Editor Serafina King-Frederick will be the videographer.

Editor's Note: A separate story on the Oak Hill City Commission races will be published shortly.
Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.