Friday, April 4th, 2014...9:26 am

Multiple forums offer chances to get to know candidates

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It is always amazing to me that as few as one-fourth of Kentucky’s eligible voters cast ballots in some elections.
As much grumbling as I’ve heard and as much Facebook ­complaining as I’ve seen about our elected officials, it would seem voters would roll out in greater numbers.
Instead, we get a paltry number like 28 percent voter turnout in ­Lexington during the 2010 primary election, according to Tracy ­Merriman, ­elections ­department manager at the Fayette County Clerk’s office.
This year there are a gob of folks running for ­important offices locally and statewide, and Merriman thinks that will bring voters out in larger numbers.
Maybe so.
For the May 20 ­primary, there is a long list of ­candidates, including four who want to unseat Mitch McConnell in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, and two hopefuls who want the Democratic nod for the 6th District seat in the U.S. House of ­Representatives. Also on the ballot is the office of mayor, three Urban ­County Council at-large seats, and five council district races with three or more candidates.
(The 7th District Council race will be on the ­ballot, Merriman said, but no votes will be counted. One candidate dropped out, ­leaving two to advance to the Nov. 4 election.)
“I’m hoping the turnout will be fairly good,” she said of the primary.
Several Lexington ­organizations are helping us get to know who the candidates are and what they stand for.
The League of Women Voters will host three forums.
“We think the voters need to have good ­information beyond sound bites to make good decisions about who they will vote for,” said Cindy Heine, league vice president.
There are several forums over three days. The largest is Saturday, but it will end in plenty of time to watch Kentucky play ­Wisconsin in the Final Four.
Scheduled to appear are candidates for the state House of ­Representatives’ 76th and 77th Districts, 6th District U.S. House of ­Representatives, Fayette County judge-executive and Urban County Council at-large races.
On Sunday, candidates in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th council districts will get their chances to woo voters.
And April 13, contenders for council seats in the 6th and 8th Districts will discuss their positions on issues.
Candidates are not given the questions in advance, Heine said. Instead, ­audience members will be asked to write out questions, and members of the League will choose the best ones. League members might add questions on other issues.
“We are always pleased to do this,” Heine said of the forums, which will be taped and replayed on the Library Channel (Time Warner Cable Channel 20) about a week later, she said.
In addition to the League forums, the ­Community Action Council, Central ­Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice and Catholic ­Action Center are ­collaborating to host an April 16 forum just for at-large council ­candidates.
“The hottest issues in Lexington are about ­homelessness, affordable housing and poverty in general,” said Malcolm Ratchford, executive director of the Community Action Council. “We want to get the candidates to talk about these issues. One of the ­candidates could be vice mayor.” (The top vote-getter among the at-large candidates in the November election will become vice mayor.)
All three sponsoring groups have worked to shore up the underserved, including the homeless or near-homeless, and they want voters to know where candidates stand on issues that affect the least of us.
The candidates will have an opportunity to reveal their positions on poverty or, perhaps, their lack of knowledge about the issue, Ratchford said.
Again, questions will not be given in advance. “We want to hear them off-the-cuff,” he said.
An interesting twist will be ­audience ­comments on Twitter, using hashtag #LFUCGatlarge, about the candidates’ responses. The comments, which will be monitored, will appear on a screen onstage so ­candidates may see them and respond if they choose ­during closing comments.
“We did this before in 2010 for the mayor’s race,” Ratchford said.
Most of the candidates have agreed to appear.
If that is not enough ­opportunities to get to know some of the candidates, KET will feature candidates in six U.S. Senate and House ­primary races on ­consecutive Mondays at 8 p.m. on Kentucky Tonight, beginning April 21 with the Senate Republican primary.
With all those chances to find out where candidates stand, surely we can find someone we can vote for, someone who will get us to stop complaining and start participating in the ­government process. That seems to be what the folks who wrote the Constitution wanted us to do.
Some of us can start by registering to vote in the primary by the April 21 deadline.

Candidate forums
League of Women Voters
April 5: 9 a.m., state House of Representatives 76th District; 10:15 a.m., state House of Representatives 77th District; 11:45 a.m., U.S. House of Representatives 6th District; 12:30 p.m., Fayette County judge-executive; 1:15-2:30 p.m., Urban County Council at-large, group 1; 3-4:15 p.m., Urban County Council at-large, group 2.
April 6: Urban County Council. 1:30 p.m., 2nd District; 2:30 p.m., 3rd District; 3:30 p.m., 4th District.
April 13: Urban County Council. 2:15 p.m., 6th District; 3:30 p.m., 8th District.
All forums will be at Downtown Public Library auditorium, 140 East Main Street.
Community Action Council, Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice and the Catholic Action Center: 7 p.m. April 16, 913 Georgetown St.
KET forums: April 21, U.S. Senate Republican primary; April 28, U.S. Senate Democratic primary; May 5, 5th and 6th Districts, U.S. House Democratic primaries; May 12, 1st and 3rd Districts, U.S. House Democratic primaries. All programs air at 8 p.m.

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