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Minn. candidate debates ... but not his opponent

Jay Xiong, left, and Fred Turk

ST. PAUL — When his political opponent failed to show, a Republican candidate for a House seat on St. Paul’s East Side found himself in an 80-minute, one-on-one taped debate against a sitting state lawmaker from another House district — state Rep. Tim Mahoney, a DFLer running unopposed.

Former 3M engineer Fred Turk attended a League of Women Voters candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Harding High School, ready to debate Jay Xiong the DFL-endorsed candidate for House District 67B. But Xiong never showed.

“We invited all candidates to be a part of this forum. … In District 67B, Fred Turk is here, and his opponent does not seem to have come,” said forum moderator Mary Santi.

Turk was irked. Tuesday’s forum had been rescheduled from an earlier date specifically to accommodate Xiong and Mahoney’s schedules, Turk said.

Turk still got his opportunity to square off on legislative issues, though, against Mahoney, a longtime House lawmaker representing District 67A. The forum featured timed answers to questions and rebuttals over the course of an hour and 20 minutes.

“As it turned out I wound up debating Tim, and I don’t think that’s fair,”  Turk said on Thursday. “I’m not running against him but it appeared that I was. … I heard no explanation from anybody. I didn’t know that Xiong wasn’t going to be there until it started.”

A reporter’s call and email to the Xiong campaign were not immediately returned on Friday.

Turk and Xiong, a former House legislative aide who carries a long list of endorsements from DFL officials, are running for the seat held by DFL state Rep. Sheldon Johnson, who is retiring.

Tuesday’s forum was organized in cooperation with the District 1 Community Council and videotaped by the St. Paul Neighborhood Network. The SPNN video is online at tinyurl.com/TurkXiong.