Costa Mesa United has canceled Thursday's scheduled City Council candidates forum because of a concern over political perceptions.
The youth sports advocacy organization has two council candidates — Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy and Councilman Steve Mensinger — on its board of directors.
Organizers said they backed out of hosting the event, which would have been the third candidates forum, because all the planned questions pertained to youth sports issues, and McCarthy and Mensinger could be considered unfairly advantaged.
"We felt that that might become a sensitive issue," said board member Gordon Bowley.
The group focuses on the intersection of youth sports and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District; many of the city's league teams play on school fields.
Originally, school board members were invited as well, but because they are unopposed this election, Bowley said that it would have just been the council candidates on stage.
Youth sports have not been a significant factor in this election compared to hot-button issues like outsourcing and the city charter.
Despite this, Costa Mesa United's issues "are important to all of us, and I feel it is important for the citizens to hear from all of the candidates on these issues," wrote candidate Harold Weitzberg in a statement.
He called for the organizers to reinstate the event, and added, "I am not at all concerned about a perceived advantage for Steve and Colin."
Together with Councilman Gary Monahan, McCarthy and Mensinger are part of the unofficial "3M" slate. They all support the current council majority's government restructuring.
Candidate John Stephens expressed disappointment over the cancellation, saying his youth sports credentials are as strong as Mensinger's and McCarthy's.
"One reason given for the cancellation was that two candidates are on Costa Mesa United's board, giving them an 'unfair advantage,'" Stephens wrote in a letter to the Daily Pilot. "That explanation does not wash with me. In fact, I would stack my credentials in area of youth sports against any of the candidates. Since 1998, youth sports have been my family's passion and a major outlet for my community service."