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The Local Candidate Forum, originally organized by The Goochland Democratic Committee, The Goochland Tea Party and The Goochland Republican Committee and scheduled for October 21st at 7 p.m at Grace Chinese Baptist Church is canceled.
Although all three Forum sponsors agreed to the format and rules in June, The Goochland County Republican Party sent an email on September 22, 2019 to their membership recommending that their candidates not participate in forums for this election cycle.
The reason for the withdrawal was cited as the GOP candidate not being treated "fairly". Last time I checked, both Sheriff candidates were running as Independents. One Candidate has been endorsed by the Goochland County Republican party. If the Goochland County Republican Committee's definition of "fair" includes candidates or their campaigns going through the questions submitted through the online portal ahead of time and participating in which questions are chosen for the moderator to read and removal of rebuttals--then I really don't know what to say.
There are not professional, non-partisan or bi-partisan political forums anywhere that I am aware of that lets candidates or their campaigns choose the questions to be asked or do not allow for rebuttals.
Furthermore, back in 2017 when the 3 Goochland Committees (GCRC, Goochland Tea Party and GDC) sponsored a primary forum for Republican and Democratic Candidates running for the 56th District--the Democratic Candidates were never given an opportunity to pick questions or have a hand in the rules for the forum. It was show up or don't.
Melissa and Lizzie walked into an unfriendly situation, but they showed up because they were running to represent EVERYONE.
I am not sure why things are so different in 2019.
Candidates running for office are expected to be able to speak anywhere, anytime and answer questions as to why they are the best person for the office they are seeking. To only seek out "friendly" audiences not only does a disservice to the candidate but to the community as well.
For example, Abigail's 1st Town Hall was here in Goochland and it definitely was not a majority friendly crowd--she showed up anyway. Those folks are her constituents too. She needed to hear from them just as much as they needed to hear from her.
It is a shame that the Goochland County Republican Party denied the citizens of Goochland an opportunity to hear from their candidates. It is also a shame that the majority of their candidates chose to give up an opportunity to speak with voters and answer their questions. The GDC believes it is imperative that our candidates make themselves available to the residents of Goochland County so that voters can make informed decisions.
Voters should question why the GCRC has taken away the opportunity to learn about their candidates and why their candidates went along with the decision. This is one of the many reasons why we need to continue to build a bench of candidates to give voters a choice.
While we considered moving forward with the October 21st forum alone, our candidates felt that if their opponents were not going to show up, their time was better spent doing what they do best--talking directly to voters at the doors.
I will give credit to Don Sharpe who was going to show up even though he was running unopposed. He stated he wanted to meet with voters. I only wish that other Republican backed candidates felt the same way.
Tina Winkler, Chair, Goochland Democratic Committee
Editor’s Note: A shorter version of this letter was submitted to the Goochland Gazette, and it’s worth noting that the Gazette has previously commented on the Goochland Republican’s derailing local debates, a pattern of behavior which is being repeated in Louisa County, and likely in many other localities around the Commonwealth.
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