It is unfortunate that just three of the six invited candidates participated in the Mineral Industrial Development Corporation’s Candidates’ Debate held at the Louisa Library on Thursday.
The event, moderated by Deana Meredith, editor of The Central Virginian, was initially designed as a true debate in which the candidates would question each other within the boundaries of four pre-determined issues—education, broadband internet, finances and the future direction they’d like to take with the county or state.
There were no questions prepared for candidates in advance and the audience was allowed to pose questions both during and following the discussion.
The end result was more like a town hall meeting. This was actually good for the candidates who cared enough about informing the public about their views before the election to show up. It gave them plenty of airtime to get their points across to potential voters without interruption from their opponents.
And while there may have been some differences of opinion between audience members and the candidates, everyone was respectful, courteous and frank with one another during the two-and-a-half hour event.
Candidates said afterward that they felt the event gave them a better understanding about what the public cares about, and several in the audience said they felt that they got to know the candidates better and understand why they think the way they do on certain issues.
That is why such dialogue between candidates and the electorate is so important. You just can’t buy that kind of air time.
To make a fully informed decision, voters must understand where the candidates are coming from and why they think a certain way. An educated electorate is vital in the election process so that voters can make what they believe is the very best decision when they enter the polling booth.
Denying voters this educational experience is a disservice on the part of those candidates who didn’t participate in the process. Meet and greet events and forums are fine and dandy, but can be superficial and low on the information that is crucial to making intelligent decisions. They don’t allow back and forth dialogue.
Elections should never be about popularity contests; they should be based on the issues. Just because someone is kind, friendly and helpful in many ways, doesn’t mean they are able to make the tough decisions necessary to govern effectively.
Attendees at the MIDC’s planned debate were robbed of getting to know where Stephanie Koren, Dick Havasy and John McGuire stand on the important issues. Thank you Melissa Dart, Bob Babyok and Duane Adams for stepping into the ring bravely and genuinely making an effort to connect with the voters of this county.