Last week, I had the opportunity to moderate a candidates forum for seven candidates for town board and supervisor in the town of Spafford.
After hearing horror stories from colleagues about these types of events in the past that had gotten out of hand, I prepared myself for the worst case scenario. But, in actuality, what I got was the best case scenario.
Spafford town hall was packed with people for the event, some came with questions, others were content to sit quietly and listen.
As we got underway, I was glad to see that all seven candidates were respectful of each other and were happy to abide by the rules set forth for the event. Our publisher Dave Tyler acted as my timekeeper, though he never had to cut anyone off like you might see in a state or federal election debate.
As demonstrated by these Spafford candidates, these town races are about issues and people, not politics.
In fact, I noticed that when each person was given a 2 minute 30 second period to introduce themselves to the audience, nobody even mentioned their political affiliation.
Any discussion, even between close friends, relating to national issues and politics can quickly turn contentious, but that type of baggage was left behind at this event in the interest of discussing issues relative to the town. These included development, cellphone service, alternative energy and fiscal responsibility. In a bigger race, opposing parties would work to differentiate themselves on these topics, but here they were often on the same page, albeit with varying ideas about what should be done.
The audience was very quiet for the majority of the night — I collected questions on index cards rather than having the people ask questions of the candidates directly. However, things got more interesting during the supervisor candidates portion of the night. Mary Bean, the Democratic Party challenger, gave a couple of strongly worded answers that warranted a short round of applause from audience members.