Goiní to the candidates ... forum

Coo-coo-ca-choo, Mrs. Robinson. Jesus loves you more than you will know Ö But Iím not going to the candidatesí debate next Thursday.

Thatís because itís not a debate, folks.

Itís a candidate forum. At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, The Evening Sun will present a public forum for the three judicial candidates seeking the office of Chenango County, Surrogate and Family Court Judge.

Weíre pleased that all three hopefuls Ė Diane DiStefano, Joseph McBride and Frank Revoir Ė have agreed to participate in this important election season event, but I wanted to use this column space today to further clarify the evening weíve planned (and have advertised for the past two weeks), so you, dear readers, will know better what to expect next Thursday.

Itís not a debate. I canít stress that enough, really. While we will have all three candidates on stage at NHS and they will each answer questions about their respective candidacies, the rules regarding judicial elections are a little different than those governing ďregularĒ political offices. Those expecting heated arguments, charged back-and-forth rebuttals and open-mike questions from the audience will be disappointed Ė there can be none of that here.

Believe it or not, Iíve trudged my way through the half-inch thick ďJudicial Campaign Ethics Handbook,Ē issued by the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics. Like the candidates themselves, I know what they can and cannot do according to the prescribed regulations. Itís a pretty stringent list.

ďJudicial candidates should be careful to maintain the dignity of judicial office, avoid making pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of office, and avoid making statements that commit or appear to commit him/her with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court ÖĒ

Yeah, itís that fun of a read.

Basically, what it boils down to is that weíre limited in the scope of questions that we can ask of the candidates, and they are limited in the questions they can answer, and in how they comport themselves while answering.

Iím sure many of you were hoping for an open debate in which you could lob any question you wanted at the panel, but thatís just not possible. New York State says so. Regardless, I suspect that many questions from an unfiltered citizenry at this point would involve issues far beyond the purview of the Chenango County Judge office anyway. Iím no lawyer, but Iím fairly certain the new judge, whoever it may be, will never be asked to rule on hydrofracking, same-sex marriage, abortion, or, I donít know Ö alien abductions? Scooters at Wal-Mart? Whateverís occupying minds over on í30 Secondsí these days.

Instead, we will present an opportunity for you, the voting public, to see all three candidates in the same place at the same time, delivering summaries of their candidacies and answering questions (prepared by The Evening Sun) regarding their qualifications for office, and their perspective on its duties. Iím confident that despite the restrictions, it will still be an excellent opportunity to see how DiStefano, McBride and Revoir (thatís alphabetical order; please stop reading into my every word!) carry themselves publicly, weigh the aspects of their diverse backgrounds and hopefully show a hint or two of personality.

After the formal program, each of the candidates have agreed to mingle about the audience, so you will have chance for a little one-on-one, if you desire. But the same rules apply.

Why next Thursday, by the way? I know itís Labor Day, the first week of school, days before Colorscape, etc. Ė weíre all busy these days. Itís next Thursday because thatís exactly one week before the all-important Republican, Conservative and Independence Party Primary Ė a ballot on which all three candidates will appear. For members of those parties, itís a crucial time to make a very important decision. What Novemberís general election holds will largely be determined by the results of the Sept. 13 Primary, so itís vital that voters in those registered parties make an informed decision.

This isnít my first rodeo Ė The Evening Sun has hosted many debates throughout the years, from candidates for school board to mayor and even county sheriff (that one was a long, long time ago) Ė but this is our first crack at bat for a judicial race. And itís certainly been an interesting one. Iíve said it before and Iíll stand by it: Itís fantastic that Chenango voters will have a choice among three qualified candidates. Nothingís worse than an uncontested race Ė both from the perspective of democracy and for selling newspapers.

See you next at 7 p.m next Thursday at the Candidates Ö. Forum! Itís not a debate!

Follow me on Twitter Ö @evesunjeff.

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