Candidates and voters: Are you ready to meet? | Guest Viewpoint

Angela Gyurko | League of Women Voters-Jefferson County
Posted 4/13/22

Candidates are already stating their intentions to run for public office, and as we approach the May 16 — May 20 candidate filing period for the 2022 elections, the League of Women …

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Candidates and voters: Are you ready to meet? | Guest Viewpoint

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Candidates are already stating their intentions to run for public office, and as we approach the May 16 — May 20 candidate filing period for the 2022 elections, the League of Women Voters-Jefferson County wants to remind everyone why and how the Leagues of Women Voters holds public, non-partisan candidate forums for elections in which there are at least two candidates. 

The LWVJC takes our role in supporting democracy seriously. Being willing to face questions when running for office is a sign of a candidate’s willingness to engage with all constituents while in office. And as all current elected officials can attest, there’s never a time when constituents won’t want to engage with their representatives. The questions asked of candidates in a LWVJC forum are a small — some would call them gentle — representation of what a candidate faces when in office. 

The pandemic prompted our league to take advantage of the many technological tools at our disposal and focus candidate forums more distinctly on policies and plans. 

Here’s a brief primer on how the LWVJC now prepares our candidate forums:

We hold candidate forums a few weeks before ballots are mailed so candidate positions are fresh in the minds of the voters. Ideally, we schedule forums at a day and time when we can simulcast them on our media partner, Port Townsend’s community radio station KPTZ 91.9 FM, but we always are willing to adjust to accommodate candidates’ schedules.

I, as LWVJC president, reach out to the candidates in these competitive races by email, phone, and snail mail with a formal invitation, and I document all communications. Though some candidates in past elections have refused to respond to our multiple invitations to participate in LWVJC forums, I remain hopeful that this behavior was an aberration and will not be repeated in future elections.

At the same time as I reach out to candidates, we begin soliciting questions for candidates from the Jefferson County community via announcements in print media, social media, and community bulletin boards. We also email civic groups, political parties, schools, and community organizations. To protect the integrity of our question-gathering process, only I have access to the questions we receive at lwvjeffcowa@gmail.com, and only I have access to the official document in which they are catalogued and recorded.

Two days prior to the forum, I begin grouping questions into categories. Homelessness, policing, affordable housing, road repairs — if you’ve lived in the county for any length of time, you know already what many questions will cover. The exact wording and order of questions remain under wraps until they are released to the forum moderator just before the forum begins. 

Our forums are held via Zoom and recorded. The resulting video is posted on our YouTube page after the forums so that the maximum number of voters can see the candidates’ spontaneous responses to policy questions. Examples of past forums are available for those candidates who wish to see our procedures in action (youtube.com/channel/UCBIDcHP1srhVawhk9X-javQ).

Candidates, after filing week ends, be on the lookout for our outreach emails, phone calls, and letters. We are persistent because voter education is the core mission of your local league. 

Voters, if there isn’t a forum scheduled for a competitive office, start asking both candidates why. It isn’t because we didn’t try; it’s because one of them refused to discuss their policy positions in a public, structured, non-partisan, LWVJC election forum.

(Angela Gyurko has served as president of the League of Women Voters-Jefferson County since August 2020. More information on the LWVJC can be found at lwvwa.org/Jefferson.)

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