By Stanley Campbell
It’s not too often we get to look a candidate in the face and ask them a question. It’s even less often we get a straight answer, but the chance of inquiry is worth the effort. It’s difficult, with the number of voters out there, to have a heart-to-heart with every constituent. Candidates would love to have you come and listen to them, but the chances are few, unless you plan on making a donation. That is why Rockford Urban Ministries (for which I work) is co-sponsoring three candidate forums before the primary election March 20.
Beginning at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 31, only the candidates for state representatives and senators are invited to introduce themselves at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St. (four blocks north and east of Alpine and State). The questions asked by a panel will only focus on education. The subject will be limited, but you will have a chance to meet the candidates. There are plenty of them to go around. What with the new redistricting (some might say gerrymandering); I am not even sure where those lines are drawn. We’ll try to have maps, and I am sure the candidates themselves will be able to tell you where you are.
Why limit the candidates? The State of Illinois is a critical partner in education. The decisions made by the state legislature affect school funding levels and methods, regional offices, common core standards, Race to the Top, early childhood, higher education, testing, charter schools, vouchers, collective bargaining, pensions, teacher evaluations, school district consolidation and more. What do the candidates for the State Senate and State House plan to do to be supportive partners in education? Where do they stand on these issues? You are welcome to join us to find out. Sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Rockford Register Star, the League of Women Voters, RUM and La Voz Latina.
Beginning at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2, Allen Chapel, 3000 Rural St., will host an all-Winnebago County candidates forum. Allen Chapel moved from downtown just before the wrecking ball and is now ensconced in the former Westminster Presbyterian Church — they having moved farther east. So, besides getting a good eyeful of county politicians, you’ll be able to see the A.M.E.’s new “digs.” Besides, they usually have a nice spread. County board politics can be messy. It is where the development goes, or stays. The environmentalists are upset because politicians got a hold of the Winnebago County Forest Preserve Board, but to make a real dent for the future, the county board is where the action is.
At 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19, First Presbyterian Church at North Main and Park Avenue (yes, they are still there), will host state candidates (that’s the representatives and senators, again). This forum will focus on current issues and will take questions from the audience. I hope to get a few questions in about gambling and poverty.
We don’t do debates. Office seekers give a three- or four-minute introduction, and the moderators ask most of the questions. The League of Women Voters keep time, and everyone is welcome (most of the crowds number around 100).
With the new redistricting, the redrawn boundary lines make the primaries the main election. The lines are drawn so a district is either highly Democrat or Republican. Short of a mass murderer or some other felonious activity, once an incumbent gets in, it’s hard to dislodge them. So, take your chance and go see the candidates now, even at the expense of encouraging them.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Jan. 25-31, 2012, issue