During the conversation, Watkins did not clarify what his campaign had planned.. We asked about the event he had scheduled but did not receive any information on where and who it was with. A look at his political Facebook page reveals no pictures or info on said event.
"If you're not showing up, could we please get info on the event you'll be attending instead? We'd like to be able to tell those who attend," we asked after he declined to attend the forum. Still no response.
Aside from his scheduled event, Watkins also claimed that his campaign never received an invite to the roundtable discussion held in Jefferson County. On Monday, Watkins personally reached out to each Republican Executive Committee -- minus Wakulla County -- saying that he never received an invite. He also told our outlet the same thing when we messaged him on Monday.
"This is the first invitation I have received," he told us over text messages.
However, that is not the case. We made multiple attempts to reach out to him and his campaign but were met with silence. Below are a few attempts we made to him and his campaign staff.
This message was sent on March 12 to Marcia Mathis -- a volunteer for Watkins' campaign. She did not respond to our request.
Above is the official flyer invitation sent out on March 27. This invitation was posted on Facebook on March 27 -- the day we confirmed the event. In it, all four candidates are linked to post (names are highlighted blue).
As you can see, Watkins name is no longer highlighted in the official invitation we sent out last week. Watkins unlinked himself from the post after we reached out to him on Monday. He then blocked our outlet from viewing his personal page.
The notion that Watkins never got invited is false. We've reached out to his campaign several times, but never once received any feedback. While he may have scheduled an event on Thursday recently, we feel confident that he knew about this event weeks before it was confirmed.
So why did he avoid this event? Maybe because our outlet was the only one to bring to light his $300 contribution to Andrew Gillum in 2013. Maybe it's because we fought to find out the facts surrounding his altercation with candidate Jason Shoaf. Or maybe, he's scared of a 28-year-old moderator who will do everything in his power to uncover the truth for the voters in House District 7.
Regardless of the reason, his absence came at a price. Many of those who attended the forum made it clear that his unwillingness to show up proved that he wasn't the right candidate for them.
"If he can't show up, I can't vote for him," one elderly gentlemen told RoundTable Politics during Thursday's meet and greet.