IS IT WORTH THE TIME & EFFORT TO ATTEND?
(Source for text information, Canton LWV, LINK)
Let's sift through a bit of history of Canton League of Women Voters candidate forums to come to a more definite answer.
Last week the Canton League of Women Voters on conjunction with The Repository sponsored a candidates forum involving one of two Stark County commissioners races. The one between Republican Canton Township trustee Bill Smith (15 years as a trustee) and Democrat state Rep. Stephen D. Slesnick (8 years as a representative). It is likely Smith/Slesnick will be the only one of the two that "might" be competitive on November 8th.
As run-of-the-mill LWV sponsored events go, last week's may have been the best the SCPR has ever witnessed given local attorney Richard Kuhn was the moderator with no other persons involved in asking the questions tendered.
Kuhn, left to his own devices, historically, has left a lot to be desired in terms of his management of LWV candidate forums.
It is a credit to Stark County-sited office seekers who, by and large, participate in these sparsely attended events.
And it appears that Kuhn might be squaring up with political reality more than he has in the past in his management function.
Take a look at this promotion for tonight's event suggestion that the Stark County prosecutor's race could get testy.
Last Tuesday Kuhn was on his game and the questions actually produced answers up which could be difference makers for some Stark County voters. Of course, the questions weren't his. They came from LWV members, The Rep and individual audience members.
In past forums, Kuhn has manage to botch up even this minimalist role.
Getting by a chancy moderator performance, the worthwhileness is that many of the forums have virtually nobody in attendance and among those who attend there were very few if any Stark County "yet to decide" voters present.
In sparsely attended forums, most of the attendees were in some way connected to the candidates, the C-LWV or local media.
In October, 2015, it was quite a different picture as The Rep, The Indie (Massillon's daily) and the C-LWV teamed up to present a very worthwhile in the sense of being informative Q&A of Massillon's mayoralty candidates.
Look at the Massillon crowd (actually two-thirds of it).
An important part of the success of the Massillon forum were the questioners.
Why the LWV wouldn't ask at least Rep editorial board director Matt Rink and Veronica Van Dress of The Massillon Independent and perhaps someone from The Alliance Review to do the questioning, is beyond comprehension.
Maybe even eliminate the moderator?
Take a point that Candidate Slesnick made last week that he as state representative he had brought tens of millions of dollars back to Stark County over his eight years in Columbus. And that a major reason why he with his Columbus lingering connections would be an value-added commissioner if elected.
Rink, et al, would have, if they followed their excellent follow through Q&A of the Massillon event, would have pressed Slesnick to give chapter and verse on the "tens of millions of dollars" assertion of Slesnick and moreover would have pressed him to present concrete evidence of his having significant influence in the Ohio General Assembly that had great promise to benefit Stark County going forward.
The foregoing is offered as an example of the weakness of last Wednesday's event structure.
The structure of the forum did not allow for a back and forth between the questioners (through moderator Kuhn), Slesnick and Smith on Slesnick's claim.
So given the low historical turnouts of C-LWV sponsored events going back years excluding the Massillon 2015 forum, the lack of a structure to follow up on claims such as Slesnick's and the like make the C-LWV conceived candidate forums less worthwhile than the might be.
As presently constituted the C-LWV candidate forums may or may not provide valuable information on which attendees might base their votes.
One also has to wonder who is in charge of pre-event publicity.
The SCPR missed the West/McMasters candidate forum for a basic reason: no one had bothered to send The Report a press release.
Other Stark County based organizations as a matter of Communications 101 send the SCPR notice of their events.
For instance, the Stark County District Library (SCDL) sent The Report not only a notice but an individually tailored notice to last Wednesday's event featuring nationally renowned presidential elections analyst Kyle Kondik at the SCDL's Lake Community Branch, to wit:
Jennifer Walencik <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sep 14 at 11:52 AM
The Library is hosting Kyle Kondik next Wednesday at Lake Community Branch. He’s a political analyst for the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of “The Bellwether, Why Ohio Picks the President.” He’ll talk about swing states, Ohio's role as a national model and his predictions for November. Given the current election cycle and today’s Trump rally, I thought this could be a timely story and an event readers will want to check out. Is this something you would be interested in sharing with your readers?
An excerpt from the press release:
Kyle Kondik, our first local author this fall, is a Cleveland native living in Washington, DC. He will join us on September 21 at 6:30 at the Lake Community Branch. He works as a political analyst for the University of Virginia Center for Politics and is the Managing Editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Learn why they say “As Ohio goes, so goes the Nation” as this expert on campaigns fills our evening with history, politics and intrigue. Kyle will discuss his book “The Bellwether”, share his predictions for November and discuss Ohio’s pivotal role as a national model.
I’ve attached the official press release for you and am happy to answer any questions you may have about this event.
Community Engagement Specialist
Stark County District Library
Think maybe the C-LWV might need a "Community Engagement Specialist?"
The SCDL was productive.
The Stark County Political Report gave the Kondik event "wall-to-wall" coverage (LINK) including video of 12 everyday Stark County citizens asking questions of the national political expert.
(one-half the total crowd)
The C-LWV certainly are intent in doing good for Stark County voters. However, they need to figure out how to be effective "do gooders."
A little more "thoughtful" effort and these events could be a "do not miss" for information on Stark County-based candidates, no?
With so many candidates to present their views in a relatively short period of time, it is unlikely that tonight's forum will be productive for voters with the C-LWV seemingly set to do the same old thing in terms of forum format and structure.
To pose the question again.
Is it worth the time and effort to attend?
For the SCPR, even "probably" is short of what the answer ought to be which is: "definitely!!!"
If changes are not made and made soon, is this potentially valuable public destined for abandonment?