You’ve seen their signs. You know their names. Now it’s time to hear from your political candidates themselves.
The Local Candidate Forum, presented by the Somerset Junior Woman’s Club (SJWC), will be held tonight at the Pulaski County Public Library, getting underway at about 6 p.m. A number of contenders in key races are expected, and all local political candidates are welcomed to attend and have an opportunity to introduce themselves to the public.
“Everyone likes to have an opinion,” said SJWC’s Wynona Padgett. “Sometimes they like to have an opinion after the fact. This is a chance for the voters to actually find out how candidates feel about particular issues that might be of interest to them before they go to the polls.”
The upcoming Primary Elections are on May 22, so the opportunity to cast your ballot as a member of your political party is coming up quick, with the General Election in November as usual.
Those in attendance will have the opportunity to submit questions for candidates in five major races — Somerset Mayor, Pulaski County Judge-Executive, Pulaski County Jailer, Pulaski County Coroner, and Supreme Court Justice.
“These are contested races that affect the most people,” said Padgett.
The first part of the event will be an informal meet-and-greet, with the opportunity to submit questions, which will be reviewed by SJWC members to make sure no questions includes inappropriate language or a personal attack against anyone.
“We want to keep it very businesslike,” said Padgett.
The forum segment of the evening will get underway around 6:45 p.m. At that time, any city council candidates from Somerset, Burnside or other cities will have 30 second to introduce themselves and let voters know who they are, as will mayor candidates from smaller cities in Pulaski County, and candidates for school boards.
Next will be the introduction of any present candidates in uncontested races, such as circuit court clerk, county clerk, county attorney, property valuation administrator (PVA), and county surveyor, as well as Pulaski County Sheriff.
Next, the two judicial district judge candidates, and following that, all present district constable candidates will have 60 seconds to make their introductions; “Those are pretty contested races,” said Padgett. After that, the county magistrate candidates will also get 60 seconds.
Next comes the Q&A session with the candidates who attend from the five primary races for which questions were submitted. First will be the Supreme Court Justice and Somerset Mayor candidates. Each candidate would have two questions directed toward them, with a chance to respond from the other candidates; a race with two attendees would feature four questions, for example, and a race with three attendees would feature six questions asked. The candidates will have between a minute-and-a-half and two minutes to give their responses.
Then after a short break, the same process will go to the jailer and coroner candidates, and finally the candidates for Pulaski County Judge-Executive.
Following that, if any state or federal candidates are in attendance, they’ll also have 60 seconds to introduce themselves.
Padgett expected the event to likely to go until about 9 p.m. She said letters were sent to all the candidates but they didn’t have to RSVP, so it’s difficult to say exactly who or how many will attend, though Padgett said she has spoken to some personally about their plans to be present.
“We want to give all the candidates time to speak,” she said. “I don’t think they all will show up, but in those five major races, I really think they will.”
The event will be held in the community room at the library on South Main Street in Somerset. There will be free refreshments, and candidates may bring a dessert to give away through a silent auction to benefit the March of Dimes. The Pulaski County Clerk’s office may also be present to register new voters.
Padgett said that the forum will be broadcast on Somerset 106 Radio, but only the SJWC is holding the event, with no business sponsors, to prevent potential conflicts of interest.
The event is free and open to the public.
“Maybe (people) have questions that (candidates) haven’t addressed yet; this will give them the opportunity to get those answers,” said Padgett. “It’s important to the whole voting process that we hold these candidates accountable to stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is who I am, this is what I plan to do if you elect me to this office.’”