Candidates should be pushing for public forums

Published 6:40 am Tuesday, October 2, 2018


The Advocate-Messenger

Informed voters are essential to a functioning democracy. If voters don’t understand the differences between candidates for an elected office, they cannot choose wisely.

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That’s why it’s sad to see local voters losing out on valuable information in two big elections this year.

There haven’t been and currently aren’t any candidate forums or debates scheduled for which both candidates have agreed to attend in either the 54th District state House or 2nd District U.S. House races.

Incumbent Daniel Elliott is facing write-in challenger Lydia Coffey for the 54th District state seat, representing Boyle and Casey counties. Incumbent Brett Guthrie is facing Hank Linderman for the U.S. seat, representing Kentucky’s 2nd Congressional District.

These races will determine who represents us in Frankfort and Washington, D.C. The winners will be our most direct connections to the state and federal governments. It should be of primary importance that voters get the chance to hear from the candidates and understand what they would do if elected.

Without a public candidate forum, voters miss an opportunity to compare apples to apples. Voters can get information from the candidates or the groups supporting them. And importantly, they can still get information from this newspaper about the races. But they apparently won’t get to see and hear the candidates at the same time, talking with each other about the same issues.

This would be like if you were choosing a color to paint your living room, but you had to review the different paint samples in different rooms with different lighting. You can still choose a color, but you can’t be sure it’s the one you like best and it might wind up looking a lot different than what you expected.

All the candidates involved in both of these races should be calling for and working hard to arrange public forums that include their opponents. They should welcome the chance to help better inform voters — whether or not it gets them elected. Their goal should be to expose their positions and views to as many voters as possible and let the people choose who they want.

Unfortunately, it seems not all the candidates care as much about an informed populace as they do winning in November. It would be shameful, but hardly unprecedented, if a candidate avoided public exposure of their positions because they believe they can win more votes if voters are uninformed.

Even if it’s unlikely, there’s still time for forums to occur in both of these races — especially if the candidates join forces in support of democracy to make it happen.

If you get the chance to talk with any of the candidates in these races, ask them if they’re willing to have a public forum with their opponent and what they’re doing to make it happen. If they say “no” or make excuses, ask yourself if you really want that person representing you.

This editorial has been corrected to reflect that Brett Guthrie and Hank Linderman are running for Kentucky’s 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.