consultants are sandburs

Monday, July 14, 2014

ABC Newspapers reports, the north metro/suburban League of Women Voters will be modifying its candidate forum rules.

First, the LWV branch is the LWV-ABC Minnesota chapter, this webpage, this Facebook page.

Prior to a Coon Rapids candidate forum for primary election candidates (which as of today has already come and gone), a Community Contributor press release item was published by ABC Newspapers, stating in part:

The [July 9 Coon Rapids candidate] forum will be broadcast multiple times later on Quad Cities Community Television and will also be available for viewing online from QCTV’s website.

“We hope voters will avail themselves of this opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison of candidates and present questions,” said Geri Nelson, voter services co-chair. “For voters unable to attend the forum, we’re pleased to have the services of QCTV to record the forum for residents to view at a later time.”

[...] Leading up to the general election forums will be held at city halls in Andover, Anoka, Champlin, Coon Rapids and Ramsey and will include candidates for city offices and Minnesota House of Representatives. A candidates forum for Anoka County Board of Commissioners will be held at the Anoka County Courthouse.

[...] “This year we’re making a policy change that responds to voters’ concerns about our policy for cancelling forums when an opponent in a two-candidate race was unable or unwilling to be present,” Nelson said. “We will now hold the announced forum. The candidate in attendance will have an opportunity to express their positions on issues in their opening and closing statements and in response to questions submitted by the audience and read by the moderator.”

Nelson further explained, “We feel this policy change respects the time and interests of voters and candidates in attendance, and we will conduct the forum in a manner that is neutral to the absent candidate. Candidates will be notified of this absentee policy in their invitation to the forum.”

League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

As an individual valuing past LWV forum events for providing helpful candidate information and having candidates face voters and say who they are, I was most disappointed by last election's cancellation of the Ramsey general election forum when there was a collective refusal to attend by one of the two finalist candidates, for each open council seat.

That bloc of "dodgers" did not fare well in the election, none winning, and of them, only Wayne Buchholz is running again this time for the open at large seat, after having in 2012 lost the election for the then open Ward 4 seat to present council member Chris Riley.

Equally disappointing was the Anoka County general election forum which was held, but incomplete, because two incumbent candidates, for whatever personal reasons each had, declined to attend.

Specifically, incumbents Rhonda Sivarajah and Robyn West, having the advantage of incumbency, declined to participate. Other open seats had both candidates participating, so the event itself was not cancelled. Even so, voters had to be disappointed by half a forum instead of a complete one.

Presumably this election, with Sivarajah now the underdog to GOP endorsed CD6 candidate Tom Emmer, Sivarajah will value every opportunity she has to shine.

Attitudes can change, but I expect I was not alone in being disappointed by the informative forum opportunities being gamed by individual candidates. In effect: Voters showed up for the Anoka County event, but candidates did not all do so.

In Ramsey, voters would have shown up, but the collective boycott ended up causing a cancellation of the entire event, with voters left less informed.

Many readers may recall that the prior League policy had been in place for a long time, and the guess is League members were a bit disappointed in believing it necessary to change a long standing event rule.

The reasoning of the League rep as reported in the news item (quoted above), deserves major attention. The underlying motive seems to be fairness to other candidates and to voters wanting to be informed, with the rule change cautiously aimed to be as fair to non-attendee candidates as feasible, but not overly so that they can game the system.

Minnesota House District 35A, with Jim Abeler stepping aside: My hope would be voters look forward as I do to the HD35A forum appearance of unopposed DFL candidate Peter Perovich and the GOP primary winner between Abigale Whelan and Justin Boals. It would be interesting if there had been a Whelan/Boals forum for GOP primary voters to become best informed, but it apparently will not happen.

Whelan and Boals differ on who they are and what they represent, so that GOP primary voters should look beyond Whelan's caucus/convention endorsement to see which of the two resonates with their own issues thinking and world views.

In any event, Perovich against the GOP finalist will be worth attending, as the differences likely will be as great or greater than between the pair of GOP contestants.

1 comment:

Randy Backous said...

For the 2010 election, I was the only one of six candidates for city council to elect to participate in the LWV Forum. Tossey didn't because he went virtually unopposed. I pleaded with Kay (the LWV President at that time) to allow me to at least speak and present my points of view. Her hands were tied and she agreed that it was unfair to punish me for having a cowardly opponent. She vowed to try to get the rule changed and she was obviously successful. Kudos to the LWV. You have now encouraged debate rather than cowards.