Spirit Editorial on Participation in a Local Candidate Forum

In light of the LWV’s failure to host a forum in the last election because of missing candidates, we wanted to highlight the Spirit’s recent editorial:
On Monday night, the Jefferson County NAACP hosted a forum for voters to be introduced to the eight candidates vying for four open seats on the Charles Town City Council.

Voters got to meet four of the candidates, but neither incumbents Wayne Clark of Ward 2 and Mark Reinhart of Ward 1, nor newcomer Keith Veler and Don Clendening, who is seeking to return to the council following his defeat in 2012 to first-term council member Jonathan Wertman, were in attendance.

This editorial has additional comments. Refer to these comments in the Spirit of Jefferson.

While the city’s election, which is set for May 28, is nonpartisan, the eight candidates have lined up into competing de facto slates with Clark, Reinhart, Veler and Clendening populating one slate and political newcomers Michael Tolbert, Nick Zaglifa and Bob Trainor, along with Ward 3 council member Ann Paonessa, populating the other.
While it is understandable that scheduling conflicts might have prevented the missing candidates from attending, Monday’s absences call to mind a similar incident ahead of last year’s general election when a bevy of Republican candidates running for the House of Delegates and the state Senate uniformly failed to show up for a scheduled forum hosted by the Jefferson County League of Women Voters, opting instead to attend a partisan event of their own that same night.
This election is an important one and voters deserve the opportunity to hear candidates seeking public office articulate their visions and platforms. Blowing off a scheduled event —and doing so in what seems to have all the appearance of a coordinated boycott — smacks of disregard for voters and for the process. And that’s a shame, given that the city’s election in 2012 failed to attract even 400 voters.
If candidates seeking elected public office can’t be troubled enough to accept an invitation to respond to a few questions and meet the people who might consider casting a ballot for them, what’s to prevent voters from responding accordingly?
Voters deserve better than an empty chair.
Spirit of Jefferson, May 13, 2015