I had the privilege and I do mean privilege of moderating a recent candidate forum sponsored by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. Suzie Bennett, manager of the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center in Port Angeles, was near the end of her list of possible moderators when she reached me.
Hey, it didn’t matter to me that I was close to being a last resort, I jumped at the opportunity. People who say they love me wonder at this peculiar eagerness I have to risk public embarrassment.
To them, I say:
How else does one get a front row seat, some would say ringside seat, to the candidates presenting their opposing views and heartfelt promises to us, their constituency? How else is one required by definition to pay attention to every word?
Besides, this particular forum was just too good to pass up. Three races were presented: the race for
director of Community Development with candidates Mary Ellen Winborn and incumbent Sheila Roark Miller; the race for District Court No. 1 with candidates Cathy Marshall and incumbent Rick Porter and the race for Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney with candidate Mark Nichols and incumbent William Payne.
If you have followed any of the campaigns in our papers, including reports on public debates, you already know that none of these candidates shrinks from making their case or calling their opponent out on some issue.
If you don’t follow the paper reports, you have at least glanced at candidate signs with prominent slogans. As a public service to those of you who have done none of the above and are reading this column anyway, I bring you a rundown of slogans of the above candidates.
“Integrity without compromise”
“Safety • Justice • Service”
“ … Let’s restore confidence”
“Leadership, Trusted, Respected and Dedicated to the citizens of Clallam County”
“Integrity and Character Matter”
“Experienced, Qualified, Balancing Accountability with Grace”
Noting that I didn’t name the candidates, you quickly will realize that it’s difficult to say whose slogan is whose or, for that matter, what it means. Clearly the candidates are sending a message either about them or their opponent.
On the other hand, you can learn a lot about the candidates by looking on their websites with the understanding that each presents what they want you to know about what is good about them and not so good about their opponents.
If you have decided who you will vote for, you have no reason to do any of the above with the possible exception of going to a candidate forum to cheer — sorry no cheering is allowed because it takes up too much time — to support your candidate with your presence.
I see candidates strengthened when they know they have supporters in the audience.
If you have questions or haven’t decided, I think going to a candidate forum is a great way to become an informed voter. Forums begin with a description of the position and opening statements. Candidates have a chance to give rebuttals. Most importantly, you the citizen have an opportunity to ask questions.
All in all you will learn about the candidate’s positions, experience and goals and hear rebuttals colored by the opponent’s version of the quality of so stated positions, experience and goals. You will see how the candidates think on their feet when responding to questions.
From my front row seat, I came away with a pretty good idea of which candidate I was going to vote for and why. I have a few remaining questions, however, so I have a bit more research to do.
I won’t report on those musings because I would be taken off the moderator list altogether which would make me sad. Besides, you as a responsible voter will, no doubt, go through the process on your own. Check out the League of Women Voters — www.lwvcla.org/calendar.html — for a listing of planned candidate forums.
I was hoping to squeeze in one more forum before husband and I leave the country for a month. The LWV had scheduled a forum Sept. 28 around Initiatives 591 and 594 related to gun reform.
I was looking forward to moderating the respective points of view in these important and complex initiatives from my cherished front row seat.
Turns out I-591 proponents refused to be in the same room as a forum sponsored by the LWV because the state league was on record supporting I-594. Guess they don’t know it is a point of honor for the LWV to present unbiased forums to give voters an opportunity to hear opposing candidates and opposing initiative views.
Then after several months of discussion, I-594 proponents decided they would attend for just 30 minutes and only allow questions from the moderator. Guess they don’t know that the LWV sponsors forums not commercials.
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.