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Bemidji primary election candidate forums slated

Members of Citizens for an Informed Electorate recently plan for their latest non-partisan forum, Aug. 5, prior to the Aug. 10 primary, at Bemidji City Hall for mayoral and council candidates. The group formed in 2008 to bring more information about candidates to the public through forums. From left, seated, are Michael Meuers, Brad Swenson, Pat Grimes, Mike Naylor and Dennis Montgomery. Standing, from left, are Maggie Montgomery, Rachelle Houle and Barb Meuers. Submitted Photo

Primary candidate forums for Bemidji City Council and mayor will be held Aug. 5 at Bemidji City Hall.

Sponsored by Citizens for an Informed Electorate, the forums will allow audience members to submit questions via written cards to the moderated panel in two sessions.

For the first time, to accommodate overseas absentee ballots, the traditional September primary has been moved up to Aug. 10.

Because of the large interest -- and many-candidate primary -- in three local races, CIE will be providing public forums for citizens to question candidates -- 6-7:30 p.m. Bemidji City Council Ward 2, and at-large candidates will appear; 7:30-9 p.m. is the question and answer forum for Bemidji mayor.

Candidates invited to participate for Ward 2 are incumbent Roger Hellquist, and Reed Olson and Richard Sathers. Linda Lemmer, Byron Rock and Jim Thompson are running for the open at-large position. Ron Johnson, Dave Lalone, David Larson, Laverne "Pedie" Pederson, and Adam Steele are all seeking the open mayoral position.

Moderators will be Brad Swenson, Bemidji Pioneer political editor, and John Parsons, formerly of Lakeland News public television.

The forums will allow candidates to make opening and closing statements. Moderators will collect question cards from the audience, screen them for duplicity or inappropriateness, and direct them to candidates. The questions should cover the gamut of issues, as the forums are open to the general public. The forums to be telecast "live" on First City cable TV and later will be streamed on the Internet.

CIE seeks to provide an outlet for the public to gain more knowledge about candidates in order to make an informed decision at the polls on Aug. 10. Although several civic groups have sponsored general election forums, no civic group or organization has provided the same for primary elections, or an "open" and broad issue approach for general elections.

CIE represents a cross section of citizens and media members who want to provide as many opportunities for the public to know their candidates and the issues. Members include Michael Meuers, Brad Swenson, John Parsons, Dennis Montgomery, Maggie Montgomery, Mike Naylor, Pat Grimes, Barb Meuers and Rachelle Houle.