We listen to their paid spots on the radio. We read their messages in the display ads in this newspaper. We observe their colorful billboards at a distance while waiting for the red traffic signal to turn green at a congested intersection. We unfold their slick fliers postage-paid in bulk that have been left in our mailboxes. We grimace at the occasional message left on the answering machines of our home phones. We even get a brief glance at their smiling faces on TV.
Those who market themselves most effectively hope to convey their messages to the voting — and nonvoting — public using any, or all, of these promotional tools at their disposal without fear of reprisal or misinterpretation by their viewing or listening audience.
But sometimes it’s just best to hear what they have to say, and how they say it, in person and up-close in a comfortable, nonpartisan and enclosed atmosphere.
This is the purpose of the political forum, known to most as debates. In the roller-coaster world of politics, debates — that is, open dialogue between opposing candidates with differing philosophies — can make or break a campaign.
Such a series of forums is already under way in our Cleveland and Bradley community, compliments of the Bradley County Bar Association and the Cleveland Lions Club, a tandem of organizations that have brought candidates to the public forefront for several years. Most are well-attended. All are key to helping voters — especially those who are still undecided — to determine the best man or woman for their support.
The first forum came Tuesday night in the spacious Dixon Center on the Lee University campus. Candidates seeking legislative offices were invited to appear and to state their best case as to why they should become the people’s choice. The key races included — in both Republican and Democratic primaries — Tennessee Senate (10th Senatorial District), and Tennessee House of Representatives (22nd and 24th Legislative Districts).
The second of three forums kicks off tonight at 6:30 p.m., also in the Dixon Center. Taking the stage will be candidates for the Bradley County Board of Education (1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th districts), Charleston City Commission, Cleveland City Council (At-Large, 3rd, 4th and 5th districts), and Cleveland Board of Education (At-Large, 1st and 2nd districts).
The third and final forum in the series will kick off Tuesday, July 17, in the newly renovated Johnson Theatre on the Cleveland State Community College campus. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the forum will host candidates in the 3rd and 4th Congressional districts. This forum should be equally as informational as the first two because the coming August election will be the first time for a portion of Bradley County to cast ballots as part of the 4th Congressional District.
As most remember, earlier this year members of the 107th Tennessee General Assembly voted to split Bradley County at the state senatorial and the congressional levels. Our newspaper opposed the splits then. We still do today. But now local voters will have a prime opportunity to learn more about the incumbent, and his opponents (primary and general), in the 4th District.
Political forums have a long history of helping voters to understand candidates, and sometimes vice-versa.
We believe these debates will do the same.
We encourage Bradley County residents to attend the forums.
And we thank the Cleveland Lions Club and Bradley County Bar Association for again bringing them to our community.