Last week three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the Fourth Congressional District seat Rep. Mike Ross is vacating held a mini-debate at the Jefferson County GOP’s annual Lincoln dinner in Pine Bluff.
Supporters and aides to candidates erected scores of political signs around the site of the dinner, perhaps leading the uninitiated who drove past to think May had arrived early.
The request that I serve as moderator for the debate came as a surprise since many conservatives assume journalists are liberal. I don’t consider myself a Republican or Democrat, but an independent cuss.
The state Republican Party sent me a number of debate topics, which I tossed in the trash. If they wanted me to moderate, I reserved the right to write the questions.
I knew there would only be time for a limited number of questions, but prepared 10. The questions on slips of paper were placed in a container and drawn randomly.
■ Should Arkansas voters be concerned about the source of your campaign donations and where and how you spend your campaign money?
■ Should any federal tax dollars be expended with Planned Parenthood?
■ Do you anticipate the Republican primary for the Fourth Congressional District will focus more on personalities or issues?
■ Has the Obama administration addressed our nation’s economic problems and if your response is “no,” what steps would you have taken as member of Congress?
■ What can you do to bring jobs to the struggling Fourth District?
■ Do we grow our economy with tax cuts or increases?
■ President Obama’s health care package: What would you replace it with? How will it hurt or help Arkansas?
■ Immigration: Does Arkansas have an immigration problem? If so, how should it be remedied?
■ National Security: What action, if any, should the United States take against Iran in its development of a nuclear weapon?
■ If elected, how will you be a different representative than Mike Ross?
I left 10 questions on the table so anyone could see the deck was not stacked. The same questions, with minor tweaking, could be used in a debate between Democratic candidates for Congress.
Anyone reading the questions in this week’s edition can borrow at will. The first and third questions could be asked of any candidate for any race.
Voters have a tendency to develop a case of lockjaw when candidates — especially incumbents – ask a crowd if they have any questions they want answered.
Since candidates are asking for your vote, ask away. Ask what would make them stand out and why. Don’t hesitate to ask more than one question.
One Arkansas daily newspaper publishes a question and answer survey Sunday, posing the same four questions to five candidates for sheriff — three Democrats and two Republicans — in the May 22 primaries.
I know four of the five and each of the four has law enforcement experience.
That’s a start, but each voter has a responsibility to learn as much as possible about each candidate so the voter can make an informed decision about the best possible candidate.
Depending on rumors and gossip is a poor excuse for citizenship.
Ask away. That’s the advantage of living in a Democratic republic.
• • • Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (870) 329-7010.