Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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October 5, 2012

Debate over a debate

Candidates likely won’t meet again before Nov. 6

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There are only a handful of local contested seats up for election on Nov. 6, but voters won’t get to see them go head-to–head. The Corsicana/Navarro County Chamber of Commerce has decided not to host the traditional candidate’s forum.

The local contested seats are those of sheriff, county commissioner, precinct 1, and state representative. Seeking those positions are Elmer Tanner and John Barlow for sheriff; Harold Tate and Jason Grant for County Commissioner, precinct 1; and Byron Cook and Charles Morgan for state representative.

Paul Hooper, president and CEO of the chamber, released this statement: “The Chamber has recently received inquiries as to whether we will be hosting a public forum for the upcoming general election on Nov. 6. The Chamber chose not to host a public forum for the general election this year. On May 8, the Chamber, due to the delay caused by the redistricting issues, decided to include all parties and candidates in a forum for the local primary. Due to the time frame created by redistricting, the Chamber decided that this would be the only forum for this year’s election.”

In an interview, Hooper elaborated: “We felt like we were inclusive,” he said. “We invited all the candidates from both parties.”

Hooper denied that the chamber candidate’s forums were a long-standing tradition before major elections, or that one party was dictating the terms.

“Prior to my coming, it’s my understanding that they didn’t always do one,” he said. “It’s not a normal or regular occurrence. It’s not always. The last time we did one was because (everyone) hadn’t been included in the primary election.”

General election forums for local candidates were held in 2006, 2008, and 2010, according to Daily Sun records of those election cycles.

“We were not influenced by one part or another not to host it,” Hooper said. “That decision was made back in May.

“The chamber’s position is to facilitate a platform and medium to get the candidates in front of the citizens and community so they can make an informed decision based on the candidate’s experience and positions so they (voters) can make a clear decision when they go into the election polls.”

Hooper said the angst this year about people upset about the forums is likely to lead to some updating of the policies, though.

“We’re going to review our policies on public forums going forward so people will understand what we will do and what we won’t do,” he said.

Prior to May’s candidate’s forum, the controversy was over whether or not to include the state representative candidates. Ultimately, they weren’t included.

Neither of the state representative candidates in the general election race have asked for a forum, but John Barlow, the Democratic nominee for the sheriff’s office, is seeking one.

Earlier this week, he came to the Daily Sun offices and asked to be allowed to print a letter challenging Elmer Tanner to a debate, not a forum. The editorial decision was made not to allow it on the opinion page, but he was offered the option of buying an ad. He chose not to.

On Friday, Barlow said he issued the challenge to Tanner in a phone message. Tanner said he didn’t get the message.

“I want a debate, not a forum,” Barlow said. “It’s mainly to discuss certain issues that matter to the citizens of Navarro County, like drugs, burglaries, robberies and training. They all go hand in hand.”

The moderator for the proposed debate is Corsicana Mayor Chuck McClanahan.

“Everyone seems to be on board, I’ve just got to hear from Elmer,” Barlow said. “I don’t want to debate his schooling, my schooling, why a deputy took a left instead of a right on somebody’s street, I want to keep it to the pertinent issues. Just those three items and opening and closing statements.”

Tanner said he wouldn’t refuse a debate, but he admitted it’s just going to be more of the same.

“For in excess of a year now, I’ve attended debates, forums, crime stoppers events, and other functions. I feel confident the citizens of Navarro County know my campaign platform and stances for law enforcement in Navarro County.”

No one seems to be eager for a debate in the county commissioner’s race.

Harold Tate, who’s running as the Democratic nominee, said he’ll oblige if Jason Grant, the Republican, wants one.

“We’re probably pretty close on a lot of things anyway,” Tate said. “I don’t know how much there is to debate, really. I’m conservative, and I want to do the job for the community and make sure we look towards the future. I don’t know if we differ a lot really.”

As of Friday afternoon, no decision had yet been made on the debate.

     —————

Janet Jacobs may be reached by email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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