Juneau voters only have three weeks until the Oct. 3 election, and two events Thursday will allow people to get to know the candidates and issues better.
The League of Women Voters is holding its annual candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Assembly Chambers at City Hall, and LWV President Chris Niemi said all of the candidates will be there. The Chamber of Commerce is also hosting the candidates at noon for its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge, with all of the candidates expected to attend, Chamber Executive Assistant Heidi Boucher said.
Niemi said she hopes people make time to come to one of the candidate forums to get a better grasp on the issues at stake in October.
“That’s why it’s so important to have more than one opportunity for the public to become educated on that what issues are, No. 1, and what the candidates think are the important issues, because that’s who they’re voting for,” Niemi said.
The LWV forum is free and open for anyone to attend. The first half hour of the event is casual, allowing attendees to meet the candidates and enjoy light snacks. At 7 p.m., the question portion of the event begins, with a moderator from the LWV running the show. Candidates for the Board of Education go first, followed by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly candidates.
People in the audience can submit questions via index cards that are available there. The moderator will comb through the audience submissions and ask some of them.
The Chamber’s forum takes place at its weekly luncheon, which charges admission. An RSVP is required, and Chamber members pay $20 for admission and a meal, while non-members pay $25. For those looking to attend without eating lunch, admission is $12. The doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the program will run from noon-1 p.m.
While the event itself requires payment, it will be filmed and the footage will be posted on the Chamber of Commerce’s website later in the day. They’ll be seated at a table in front of the room and will answer straightforward questions about issues in town.
Niemi said the LWV hopes that the forums inform voters and get the community interested in the election. Voter turnout was 33.5 percent in last year’s election, which was a full 10 percent higher than it was in 2015. Still, Niemi said, having a third of the population voting on issues that affect the entire community is not ideal.
Ballots are available for absentee voting next Monday, Sept. 18. There will also be a forum run by the Empire and KTOO on Sept. 25, eight days before the election. There are seven candidates for three Assembly spots (including write-in candidate Andy Hughes) and three candidates for two spots on the Board of Education.
Rob Edwardson, who is running for the District 2 Assembly seat currently occupied by Debbie White, is a first-time candidate and is eagerly awaiting his chance to introduce himself to a wider audience.
“I’m looking forward to presenting my views on issues and hearing the views of the other candidates,” Edwardson said. “I also look forward to talking to members of the audience about their issues and opinions after the forums.”
Kevin Allen, running for a position on the Board of Education for the second year in a row, said he’s interested to see how the questions are different this year.
Niemi said she expects topics such as homelessness, housing, the future of mining in Juneau and early childhood education to be included in the questions. Budget issues will also likely pop up for both groups, Niemi said.
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