Around 150 seats were set up at the Aiken Standard’s public forum held Monday evening and almost all of them were filled by residents who wanted to hear from local candidates.
At a glance: Who was at the forum?
Here’s a list of who participated in Monday’s forum.S.C. State Senate District 26 Republican Challenger Deedee VaughtersS.C. House of Representatives District 81 Petition Candidate Jane VaughtersRepublican Don WellsDistrict 86 Write-in Candidate David LobbIncumbent Republican Bill TaylorSheriffWrite-in candidate Jim VauseProbate Judge Republican Candidate Challenger Jane Page ThompsonSchool Board District 8 Tad Barber Bruce WheelonTreasurer Candidates (all write-ins) John CagleDebra FolkJason GoingsAngela GunterMelissa OremusRobin SaylorEd Smith Sonya SprayReferendum on change to form of governmentAiken County Council Chairman Ronnie YoungCouncilman Scott SingerMore onlineVisit www.aikenstandard.com for more information on the upcoming 2012 election.
The forum took place at the Aiken Municipal Building in which 17 candidates from a variety of races attended and answered an array of questions asked by moderators Jeff Wallace, former Aiken Standard editor, and Executive Editor Tim O’Briant.
Questions covered issues that related to each position.
Some candidates sat at the forum table alone, like Republican Deedee Vaughters, who’s running for S.C. State Senate District 26 – incumbent and Democrat candidate Nikki Setzler didn’t participate. Vaughters said she has persistently asked Setzler to debate her, but he has yet to grant her request.
“He continues to duck me every chance he gets,” she said during her closing statements.
On the other side of the spectrum, eight write-in candidates for treasurer packed onto the stage to tell the public why they were running and answer the three questions that related to the seat they were bidding for.
“I’m sure more of you wanted to run, but there’s no more room up here,” quipped treasurer write-in candidate Melissa Oremus to the audience.
County Councilman Scott Singer and County Council Chairman Ronnie Young were also at the forum to speak on the change of government referendum that will also be on November’s ballot.
Singer, who’s for the change that would give County Council the option to appoint the treasurer and auditor positions rather than be elected by residents, said it would be more efficient and effective.
Young opposes the referendum and simply stated it didn’t need to change because, “What we got works.”
Some of the candidates took time to express their frustration of the fiasco this election year has become locally and across the state due to a Supreme Court ruling that new candidates seeking elected office must submit a paper copy of a Statement of Economic Interest at the same time that they submit their intention of candidacy.
That ruling decertified hundreds, knocking them off the ballots. Some successfully became petition candidates and others are write-ins.
O’Briant said that it’s the responsibility of a newspaper to assure that democracy exists by keeping the public well-informed.
With the confusion in this year’s election caused by the Supreme Court ruling, the Aiken Standard decided it needed to step it up even more with its coverage and organized the forum.
“We have lots of wonderful, well-qualified candidates who are seeking to serve the residents of Aiken County,” O’Briant said. “It was good to give them a forum where they had an opportunity to speak to the voters.”
Residents seemed pleased with the outcome of the forum as well.
Dr. Marsha Harris, a retired educator, said she found the forum quite helpful.
“I wanted to hear all of the candidates because some of them will represent us all,” she said.
The forum, which aired live on ASTV 95, will air again. Keep an eye on the Aiken Standard for times of when it will run.
The video of the forum in its entirety can also be found on www.aikenstandard.com.