17 October 2006

Candidates Forums

One of my frustrations with this fall's gubernatorial campaign has been how thoroughly it has been dominated by events in Southcentral Alaska. This is not surprising, really, given that region's dominance of the state as a whole. But if you look at the candidates' schedules, it seems they're spending part of every day at some Southcentral organization's candidate forum.

I'm all for candidates forums and I think it's great that they take the time to answer the same questions over and again for different audiences. But it takes up the candidates' time and it means they're less able to spend time campaigning off the road system. Andrew Halcro was supposed to come to Nome today but he ditched us (somewhat understandably) for the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce forum (or something). Rural Alaska, as is so often the case, just gets squeezed in among urban Alaska's needs.

As is noted in the ADN today, these forums have little upside and a huge downside. They don't get regular press coverage by the major media organizations in the state since they're so frequent. The only way they get covered is if some candidate makes some massive blunder.

Presidential campaigns have a Presidential Debates Commission. It perhaps makes sense to have something similar in Alaska and thus limit the number of similiar-style events and free up candidates to travel more widely across the state. Fewer forums/debates would raise the stakes of each one and if they were televised (which would be more likely since a more rare event would be more newsworthy) the whole state could participate, rather than the handful or so (relatively speaking) of people who manage to take the time to show up in person.

Still, I suppose there's some good from at least one of these events. As I've indicated before, I think Sarah Palin has the good looks and vacuous answers to win this fall's election. But at least one candidates forum allowed a little poking at her cliche-ridden romp to the governor's mansion:

Halcro, who has fired pointed criticism at both his opponents throughout the race, looked to hammer Palin on her answers at the UAA health care debate. There, he asked Palin what her long-term plan is for paying for state-funded health care services when oil prices drop.

As governor, Palin responded, "I will make sure that we are fulfilling our constitutional, mandated provisions there, that are laid out for us. Again, (those are) education, basic solid infrastructure, public safety -- in public safety is health care -- so it's a matter of priorities."

Halcro told the crowd: "Well, again, I mean, this is political gibberish. ... To hear candidates talk about, 'Well, we're going to prioritize,' that's like saying, 'Oh, we're going to embrace efficiencies.' I mean, it means absolutely nothing ..."

The remark drew applause.

Halcro said Monday that Palin appears to read her comments from notes at the almost daily debates and forums the candidates attend. Halcro, in comparison, often tells the crowd that he never relies on notes.

"Good for Andrew," said Smith, the Palin spokesman. "And if he thinks he's always the smartest person in the room, maybe he should make that his campaign slogan."

Halcro's campaign slogan is "Think."

Now imagine if the whole state could have seen that exchange at a higher-profile televised event.

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