congressional forum organizers should have done better

I attended the 8th Congressional District Republican candidate forum last night at New London High School. It was sponsored by the Waupaca County Republican Party, and my overall impression is that the event was awkward and clumsy. The candidates and their remarks were fine (and I’ll write about them in another post), but other factors made for a strange event.

There were four candidates, four questioners and one moderator. The moderator explained that each questioner would ask a question of one candidate, who would then have 3 minutes to respond. Then the other three candidates would have the option of one one-minute rebuttal. His poor explanation led Reid Ribble to later ask for clarification about whether they get one rebuttal for the whole evening, or one per question. Other candidates were also confused about the rules.

The forum began with the moderator saying that the candidates will each get a 3 minute introduction. Then he introduced each of them. Then he turned it over to Terri McCormick, who was confused about what to do. The moderator told her that it’s time for the introductions, to which Terri responded, “but you just introduced us.” The problem was that the moderator didn’t know the difference between an introduction (which is his responsibility) and an opening statement (which is given by the candidates). He should have said that he’d introduce them, after which each candidate would make an opening statement.

Then, after the second question was complete, the moderator said, “sorry, I had a Democrat moment, I forgot to ask if there were any rebuttals to the first question.” After which he then asked for rebuttals to the second question.

Later, the moderator said he’d do one more round of questions, after which the audience could ask questions. He then allowed three more rounds before allowing the audience to ask their questions.

The panel of four questioners seemed confused and unorganized as well. Their questions did not focus on the critical issues of concern to Wisconsin residents. One asked a question about trade with China, a worthy issue, but certainly not any more important than health care, an issue that no one asked about. One questioner even asked again about China, 40 minutes after they had already talked about it.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there was no power. Sorry, this was important. The forum was scheduled to begin at 7:00, however, at 6:55 the power went out. No lights. No microphones. Emergency generators at the school kicked in and we had emergency lighting along the aisles of the auditorium until 8:40pm. While the organizers were figuring out what to do, some guy got up on stage and led us in the “Star Spangled Banner”. Then he and some woman stalled a few more minutes, then led us in “God Bless America”, which would have been nice had they known the words.

The forum got going at 7:20pm, after they decided to move the candidate and questioner tables toward the edge of the stage so that we could see them better. When the lights finally came on, an hour and 20 minutes later, the candidates were now in front of the lights, so it was difficult to see their faces.

I certainly don’t mean to nitpick about minor issues that don’t matter; they don’t in the grand scheme of things. And I certainly appreciate the effort to get these candidates in front of voters so we can be informed. But each of these issues is magnified by the fact that there were so many (and there are more that I haven’t told you about). What’s worse is that the candidates needed to talk about important issues and engage the audience under such conditions.

I’ll be writing about the 8th congressional district candidates soon. But for this particular forum, the uncontrollable power problems notwithstanding, I give the event organizers a D-.