Candidates’ nights kick off tonight at Belle Haven School on Free Pike,  just West of Gettysburg. Hosted by the Northern Hills Neighborhood association it begins at 7 p.m. I’ve been posting all the events at http://electesrati.com/?cat=61  but it’s not as user friendly as I’d like.
Tomorrow night, I’ve been invited to speak at the Riverdale neighborhood association meeting  at 6:30 pm. They’ve been inviting candidates one at a time. It’s my intention to be there- although much will depend on my outpatient surgery tomorrow to have my parathyroid removed.
Candidates’ nights, for those of you who’ve not been to one, are a mixed bag. Depending on the rules and how they are enforced, as well as the format- can really dictate the value to a voter. Typically, each candidate gets between 2 and 5 minutes to present their introduction. There may be questions from either the audience- directed to either specific candidates or all, and there is usually a closing statement. In all, most candidates speak for under 10 minutes- but are expected to stay for an hour or more. They aren’t the best use of a candidate’s time (door knocking is the most effective tool- since most of the people who attend candidates’ events are the best informed voters who mostly have their minds made up before hand- or already know more about the candidates than most voters). And, after a while, most candidates can regurgitate other candidates’ stump speech.For me, the most painful candidate to listen to was Sharon Neuhardt who repeated herself so much and said so little- it led to this spoof:
Her campaign manager is now working for Nan Whaley- I pray he hasn’t coached Nan to do the same for all of our sake.
I try to videotape every one of these events and post them for people to review from home. If we had fiber available in South Park – it would make it a lot easier. It takes as long as 24 hours to upload an hour of video over DSL.
As it gets darker earlier and earlier, door knocking is curtailed by the fall of the sun. Ideally, these events could be moved to after 8 p.m. and keep candidates on the streets longer. Another option is to just schedule in each candidate in a ten-minute window and let them come and go (unfortunately, for me, this wouldn’t save me time- since I provide the video).
I thought I’d written a tip sheet on holding an effective candidates’ forum in the past- but can’t find it. Some keys:
- Have a microphone and a podium- and always as the candidate to speak from the same spot- for ease of video, and for the audience to have a place to focus.
- Have an effective time keeper. Enforce time limits strictly.
- Make sure all candidates get a chance to address every question so candidates’ plants can’t ask their candidates questions to monopolize time. Limit all answers to the same amount of time.
- Provide a place to deposit literature- instead of having candidates or surrogates handing it out.
- Start on time. Don’t make the candidates sit through other business. They can do that at other meetings.
- Don’t use alphabetical order- let the candidates draw numbers.
- Don’t make candidates for City Commission sit through school board candidates’ times and vice versa.
- Provide your members with a list of candidates and links to candidates’ websites, hopefully before the forum.
I’m sure I left a few things out.
I’m hoping we can get the candidates to work together to do something different this election season- have a Pecha Kucha candidates night – with each candidate giving 20 slides, 20 seconds each on any subject they want to explain their campaign. I hope we can pull it off- just because it will make things more interesting.
I hope to see you at one of these events. Or, if you like the fact that one campaign tries to keep everyone informed by posting video- I hope you consider a donation: www.electesrati.com/donate-2