Editorial: Elliott should not deprive voters of candidate forum

Published 10:23 am Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tonight, candidates for Junction City Council will present their views and agendas to voters at a public forum.

In the remaining two and a half weeks before the Nov. 8 general election, candidates for Danville City Commission and Perryville City Council will participate in similar forums.

Candidates for the Danville Board of Education already held a forum last week.

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That leaves only two local contested races without a public forum or debate planned: Boyle County Board of Education District One and State Representative for the 54th District.

The lack of a public forum for the board of education isn’t ideal, but it’s much more understandable than the fact the public won’t get to see its options for state representative side by side.

We could have had such a forum, but current Rep. Daniel Elliott declined to participate when asked by the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the other upcoming forums.

Asked why he declined, Elliott told The Advocate-Messenger he had already debated his opponent Bill Noelker twice during the special election for his seat early this year.

Such a response doesn’t make much sense as an excuse. Politicians campaigning for office have a very repetitive job of telling people over and over and over what they believe and why they should be elected. If Elliott doesn’t want to repeat himself, he’s in the wrong line of work.

But a forum now would also be far from a repeat of the public events held in February and March, when Boyle County was voiceless in the state House due to the departure of Mike Harmon.

Elliott has now had some time to participate in Frankfort’s dealings and advocate for Boyle and Casey counties. He now has a record to stand on or to be criticized over.

Elliott has pushed to overhaul legislators’ retirement plans; he has been involved in a successful effort to obtain funding to study flooding problems in Liberty; he has been criticized by opponents for towing his party’s line too closely at times; among the legislation he is working on, he wants to give physician assistants the ability to prescribe medications.

Obviously, a forum now would not be just a rerun.

Elliott may instead be making a political calculation that the votes lost by going to ground aren’t worth the risk of “losing” to Noelker at a public forum.

If that’s what’s happening, it’s a cynical move that means Elliott is prioritizing his own interest in remaining a state representative over the public’s interest in knowing where their representatives stand. It would also suggest he’s worried about losing — a surprising thought given that Elliott defeated Noelker by almost 17 points in March.

We think Elliott should reconsider his decision not to participate. He should be willing to present himself to the public, stand on his record, argue for his platform and then let the voters decide.