They let me tag along.
Myself, Ashe Mountain Times Editor Ron Fitzwater and Watauga Democrat’s senior political writer, Scott Nicholson, made up the panel for an MOAA political forum between Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and Billy Kennedy, her challenger in the quest for the next representative of the Fifth Congressional District.
We journalists worked mostly from queries submitted by readers and reformulated and combined ideas to come up with a battery of questions.
Having the vision to conceive of an idea like a candidate forum is an important step for a group and a community.
Although the last two decades have seen considerable political rancor, I have seen few political forums in the places I have lived. The last was about 25 years ago and was organized by a county press association.
The League of Women voters, which grew out of the women’s suffrage movement of the early 1900s, lead another in a small town where I lived.
Although political clashes have grown more bitter in the last two decades with varying sides imitating great understanding of vast divisions amongst candidates, my experience with local and regional politics is that people probably know less about their local representatives than they did 20 years ago.
We are busier than ever leaving us less time, generally, to study and get to know local issues and the people in government who are trying to manage them.
Few organizations are taking the time or effort locally to educate voters through forums.
Shrinking ad revenue leave newspaper space tighter, providing less opportunity to do expansive coverage of gangs of school board and county commission candidates.
It will be our endeavor to do a better job over the next week and a half to help you understand those candidates through a series of stories about the most local of them.
We can thanks the MOAA for offering leadership and vision in understanding candidates. We’ll add to the number of candidates and depth of understanding their abilities.
At some point voters have to latch on to the work required to be a knowledgeable voter and do their homework.
Audience members at the MOAA forum showed some vigor during the raucous event, but one is left to wonder whether they were there to listen and learn or had already decided.
That is another recommendation I’d make is to be open-minded and observant about who we are electing.