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Submitted by katiet on Sun, 10/05/2008 - 16:28.
Forum shopping a disservice to voters
Forum shopping a disservice to voters
By Leslie Cornejo,
Katie Teague and Steve Doll
Sunday, October 5, 2008
A funny thing happened on the way to the candidates forums: Some candidates refused to attend.
The week before last, the California Association of Political Centrists sponsored two candidate forums. Both were co-sponsored by the Ventura County Star and California Lutheran University, with participation by the Gold Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The forum questions were provided by Joe Howry, editor of The Star, and the moderators were Greg Freeland and Jose Marichal, both political science professors at CLU.
It is a great partnership of entities that supports the community by educating the voters. Not only were there headline forums at each event, including a lively exchange with John Zaragoza and John Flynn in the Board of Supervisor race, but there were presentations by all eight candidates running for the Conejo Valley Unified School District, presentations by Mark Lisagor and Ramon Flores, running for County Board of Education, and presenters with the pros and cons of Measure U and Proposition 11. Everyone who attended the forums left better-informed for voting in the November election.
Unfortunately, there was a little behind-the-scenes drama over whether certain candidates would participate. The county Republican Party leadership extensively lobbied The Star not to participate in the forums. A GOP Senate candidate and a GOP Assembly candidate refused even to respond to the multiple invitations. This is a show of disrespect to any potential voter who would like to know them better.
A Democratic Assembly candidate declined to participate because the state budget was not signed. Does that preclude candidates from meeting constituents or at least sending a surrogate speaker? Other GOP candidates wanted to attend, but advised that the downside to participating in a forum hosted by CAPC was the threat of loss of support by their own party. They were either intimidated or in agreement and did not attend.
The picture is clear. It was more important to bow to the party than to meet and listen to the voters they hope to represent!
CAPC was formed two years ago by a group of Republicans, Democrats and independent political activists with the purpose of educating voters, promoting election reform and giving a voice to the broad middle, the independent and unaffiliated registered voters who have recently been excluded from the political process. Apparently, that is a scary thing to some candidates. This year, above all, the unaffiliated and independent voters may very well decide some high-visibility races, including the fiercely fought 19th State Senate race between Hannah-Beth Jackson and Tony Strickland. They need to be informed voters.
In our view, it is not so much about who gets a favorable rating or endorsement from a particular organization, but rather that the voters have the opportunity to meet and hear the candidates personally so that they can make their own decisions. For too long, the system has fallen into the practice of candidates running the show. If the end game is to get elected or re-elected, and nothing more, then candidates will pick and choose the forums in which they participate. It may be campaign strategy, but it does a disservice to the voters. In the age of information, the candidates and parties should not be afraid of knowledge. The more the voters are informed, the better government we all will have.
— Leslie Cornejo of Oxnard, Katie Teague of Camarillo and Steve Doll of Ventura are members of the California Association of Political Centrists Executive Board; http://www.politicalcentrists.com.