RONCEVERTE, WV (WVNS) – Controversy surrounds a local senate race as one local candidate declines to attend a debate.

Republican candidate Vince Deeds was the only one of the four 10th senatorial district candidates to not attend Thursday night’s debate at Rupert Public Library in Greenbrier County.

Deeds’ campaign manager informed the other candidates he would not attend the event weeks ago, but the event carried on without his presence.

In a statement released via his official campaign Facebook page, Deeds claims he did not attend the debate in part because of the presence of the two independent candidates, among other reasons.

“That debate did not have a neutral party, neutral organization in charge of it, in terms of the questions,” said Greenbrier County Republican Party Chair Ben Anderson. “This was Senator Baldwin’s event. And we did not feel comfortable without a neutral party to officiate this debate.”

Democrat Senator Stephen Baldwin disagrees with the claims made by Deeds’ team, saying he and the other candidates did everything possible to accommodate their requests.

“The Deeds campaign suggested the moderator. We agreed to that. They suggested the format. We agreed to that. They suggested we split all costs. We agreed to that. So it was a joint effort until they made a demand that no Independents be allowed, and we just couldn’t do that because they’re on the ballot too,” Baldwin told 59News.

The Deeds campaign argues it would be extremely unusual to participate in a debate that includes independent candidates, especially with Harry “Lee” Forbes, who had already been ruled ineligible, also participating in the debate.

“The general public wants to hear the Republican candidate and the Democrat candidate,” said Anderson. “It is generally improper, and not seen in major statewide races or state senate races, for Independent candidates to be involved.”

In lieu of attending the debate, Deeds and his wife visited their son at West Point for Family Weekend.