Monday, October 4, 2010
My First General Election Candidate's Forum
First let me apologize to County Executive Leopold for an embarrassing cell phone gaffe on my part. The candidate had just begun his presentation, and I was reaching for my cell phone to turn down the volume, when I got an urgent text from my husband that Virginia Tech managed to pull out a win over NC State. The text alert on my cell phone is Homer Simpson's iconic "D'oh!". Maybe it was just me, but it sounded really loud, and I was mortified. Can't take me anywhere...
I won't go into detail about the candidates and their talks, but let me say that I was really impressed with both the Forum and the candidates (with one significant exception, but I won't go there). Mr. Biondi did a fine job of moderating. The audience was asked to write their questions on note cards which were collected continually and given to Mr. Biondi to consolidate and present to the candidate(s). It's not ideal in that every question cannot be fielded, but I think it's the most workable solution. It allows for the most common questions from the room to be addressed to the candidates.
The room was pretty full at the start of the Forum, but it became noticeably more crowded when it was time to hear from U.S. House of Representatives candidates Andy Harris and Frank Kratovil. It was the most animated exchange of the night, both between the candidates and from the audience. The crowd got ever so slightly unruly at one point, but Mr. Biondi quickly restored order. For this confrontation-averse person, it was somewhat uncomfortable, but fascinating to watch if a little cringe inducing.
The crowd thinned a little when it was time for the next round of candidates - those running for the Maryland District 30 House of Delegates. Let me say that hearing from these six people was my favorite part of the evening. I was pleasantly surprised to hear thoughtful and well presented responses from them all, regardless of where they were coming from politically. While I didn't necessarily agree with them all, I was reassured by their apparent level of commitment and serious consideration of the issues that affect our daily lives. Mr. Biondi commented at the conclusion of their segment something to the effect of, "You can't say we don't have a good choice for delegates this November", and I would agree.
The other thing that struck me during the evening was the earnestness of many of the people in the audience in their desire to hear what the candidates had to say and to form an educated opinion on which to base their vote. The couple in front of me in particular was soaking up every tidbit and soberly weighing what was presented. It was clear they were conflicted, because none of these choices is particularly straightforward (if you think so, then you're not doing your homework), and they were making every effort to sort through the issues and propaganda to help clarify their positions. I was so much happier to see that response than the minds-already-made-up cheerleading contingent.
I guess what I came away with was an appreciation for how little I know about local politics and for the value of these types of gatherings to begin to correct that. They are certainly not perfect (in some ways I came away more confused than ever) but should be a part of our attempt to understand who and what we're voting for and how it affects our world. Considering how few people actually vote these days, I guess it's that much more important that we know what we're doing. It has raised my general awareness, and I will make a concerted effort to attend in the future.
I'd like to say thank you to all the men and women who pursue public office. I can't even begin to imagine the drain it must be on the private lives of these brave souls. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates spoke at my alma mater, Duke University, this past week. He was encouraging young people to seriously consider public service in the form of military duty. We place the full burden of defending this country on a very few men and women, and most of us are entirely too disconnected from that burden.
In his statements, Secretary Gates quoted from a letter that John Adams wrote to his son in which he said, "Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or another. If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not." John Adams embodied both of these qualities to the immeasurable benefit of this country. Here's wishing for more of that wisdom and honesty for the politicians of today, and for us constituents that we might make good choices for our country.