A voters’ forum hosted by East Central College on Thursday drew an attentive audience of mostly older voters and college students.
All candidates for state and local offices were invited to speak and answer voter-submitted questions at the college’s training center.
Speakers included candidates for the Franklin County offices of public administrator, assessor and Second District commissioner as well as the 109th District House of Representatives seat.
In some cases, individuals representing candidates attended.
Eric Mayer, a Democrat challenging Blaine Luetkemeyer in the Third District of the U.S. House of Representatives; a fill-in for lieutenant governor candidate Cynthia Davis; and a speaker for gubernatorial challenger David Spence were in attendance.
Lisa Pavia-Higel, communications and media instructor at ECC, coordinated the event in collaboration with ECC’s speaker and film series, “Words & Motion.”
“Our goal in hosting the voter forum is to help community members prepare to make informed decisions on Election Day,” Pavia-Higel said.
College President Jon Bauer moderated the forum and said he was a bit of a history buff.
Bauer confessed he will be sad to see the election season come to an end, and that typically the night before a presidential election begins he rediscovers Theodore White’s Pulitzer Prize-winning political report, “Making of the President 1960.”
He read a brief excerpt from the book before beginning the forum by introducing candidates for Franklin County public administrator, Democrat Mary Jo Straatmann, and Republican Julie Bowen.
The format of the evening allowed each of the candidates five minutes to introduce themselves and explain their political platform from a podium in front of the conference room.
A second five-minute block was used for candidates to answer questions submitted by members of the audience as selected by Pavia-Higel or Bauer.
Audience members were not able to directly question candidates, and candidates typically addressed the audience, not each other.
Generally, candidates were able to answer two questions submitted by the audience.
The issues important to audience members varied.
The individuals running for Second District commissioner, Democrat Teresa Connelly and Republican Michael Schatz, were asked to discuss the newly formed county court.
Concealed carry laws and licenses were addressed by candidates running for state House seats, Democrat Ann Schroeder and Republican Paul Curtman in the 109th District and Republican Dave Schatz in the 61st District. Michael Sage was not present.
Curtman, a former Marine, expressed an interest in changing the age limit to qualify for a conceal and carry permit. He said younger individuals ages 18, 19 or 20 who have participated in military training are not legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Older individuals may have less or even none of the training young men in the armed forces have, he said.
Schroeder didn’t disagree with Curtman’s proposal, but when answering the next question, “What most sets you apart from your fellow candidate?” she couldn’t help but state the obvious.
“There’s an age difference,” she said.
Although representatives for both governor candidates Jay Nixon and David Spence were expected Thursday night only a representative for Spence showed up.
He discussed campaign finance.
Spence took a three-day, 13-county tour of the state during the first half of this week, the representative said. He was at Geisert Farm on South Point Road in Washington on Tuesday, Oct. 23. About a dozen people were at Geisert Farm for Spence’s appearance.
The ECC voters forum had 50-60 people in attendance, not including those in the audience running for office or speaking on behalf of a candidate for office.
Director of Public Relations Dot Schowe said ECC previously has hosted voter forums. Events were conducted in 2008, 2004 and 2002.
Schowe said the turnout at this year’s forum was respectable. She noted district football games also were taking place Thursday night and other events had or were taking place in the college’s main buildings.
KLPW recorded the forum, and it is slated for two broadcasts. The first is this weekend, Sunday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m. The second broadcast will take place Monday, Oct. 29, at 6 p.m.