The November general election is right around the corner, and The Mount Airy News along with The PilotMountain News intends to arm its readers with as much information about local candidates as possible.
The two papers will hold a candidates forum of the 2016 election cycle on Sept. 29 at North Surry High School. The forum, expected to last about two hours, will begin at 6 p.m. that evening.
The program will include folks running for office in Surry County at all levels of government, from state legislators to town commissioners.
State Sen. Shirley Randleman and Rep. Sarah Stevens and their opponents, Michael Holleman and Vera Smith Reynolds, respectively, will open the program. All have received invitations, and Randleman provided her verbal RSVP on Friday.
Randleman said the forum will be a chance for those voters in attendance to hear her positions, unabridged and unfiltered by any media outlet.
There is one contested race on the Surry County Board of Commissioners, and East District Republican incumbent Commissioner Van Tucker and his Democrat challenger Ronald Bowman are expected to square off in a question-and-answer session led by News staff.
Three Dobson town commissioners will run unopposed in November, but there will be plenty of competition in the two other municipalities holding elections in less than two months.
Voters in both Pilot Mountain and Elkin will see four people on the ballot seeking two seats in each town. All eight of the candidates have been invited to the forum, and the municipal races and two school board races in Elkin will complete an evening filled with candidates making their pitches to the people.
The News held its first candidates forum in more than a decade in February. The program, hosted by Surry Central High School, went off without a hitch. Candidates in the Republican primary for the Mount Airy District seat on the Surry County Board of Commissioners were highlighted at that event.
Larry Johnson, who was the eventual winner of the five-way race and will run unopposed in November, said he believes the first forum helped him reach voters with his message.
“There may have only been 50 or 75 people there, but I think the reporting on it did me a lot of good,” said Johnson. “From what I heard from the people there that night and those who read the articles, I convinced some folks I could do a good job.”
One change from the February forum will regard those candidates who are running unopposed. There will be no time allotted for candidates running without competition to make statements.
Instead, the forum will focus on six contested races in November, with each candidate allotted time to make opening and closing statements and answer four to six questions presented by a moderator in a round-table discussion for each race.
The event is free to the public, and all those interested in ensuring they cast the right vote come November are encouraged to attend. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.