NEW BEDFORD — Paul Heroux, Democratic candidate for Bristol County sheriff, accused incumbent Thomas Hodgson of refusing to debate “or even appear with [Heroux] at a non-debate forum.”

The accusation, in the form of a news release distributed Thursday morning, was sparked by “the latest refusal,” Hodgson’s decision to not participate in “The Chat,” a community conversation series hosted by The New Bedford Light’s Jack Spillane.

Spillane said he reached out to the candidates, and on Sept. 16 he received affirmative responses from both Heroux and Jonathan Darling, the sheriff’s spokesman. “Sheriff will do it,” Darling wrote in an email.

Holly Robichaud, a spokesperson for the Hodgson campaign, later informed him that the incumbent sheriff would not participate. Robichaud told Spillane in an email dated Sept. 21: “We agreed to debates on channel 10, 12 and WBSM before New Bedford Light approached the campaign.”

“The Chat” will proceed as planned, with or without Hodgson, said Barbara Roessner, founding editor of The New Bedford Light. The Zoom webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 26, from 6-7 p.m.

“We hope Mr. Hodgson will reconsider and join us,” Roessner said.