Carter: Election forums upcoming, but perhaps not with all candidates

For years, the Carroll County Times and the Community Media Center have partnered to present various candidate forums for local elections, bringing candidates for office together to discuss the issues that are on the minds of voters.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve moderated quite a few of these over the years, including six such forums prior to the primary election in June — one for the Board of Education, one for the House of Delegates and four separate county commissioner forums for the contested races. When these forums are over, I often have audience members come up afterward and thank me, not necessarily because of anything in particular that I did, but because they find the forums to be an important community service


I couldn’t agree more. And the credit should go to the volunteers at the Community Media Center who take hours before and after setting up and breaking down the sets and equipment; readers and audience members who submit some really great questions; and the candidates who take the time to attend, face the voters and answer those questions honestly. Yes, the Times staff and I come up with some of the questions, but not without soliciting input from our readers and other residents of the community.

There are two really great things about these forums, in my opinion. The first is the audience that submits questions is usually a good mix of citizens, not just a niche group. My predecessor, one of my colleagues and myself have been asked to moderate forums organized by partisan political groups, PTAs and other groups that, inherently, have an agenda. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t allow for a wide range of questions that may appeal to others who don’t share the same occupation or political leanings the way these CMC forums do.

Even better, is unlike those niche forums, these particular forums are able to be viewed on-demand, so you don’t have to be in the live audience to hear what the candidates have to say. Again, all the credit to the CMC for that. It is a truly incredible service that, I’m betting, a lot of other jurisdictions, including some of Carroll’s neighbors, wish they had before their local elections.

With that in mind, there are two forums scheduled for this week, both starting at 7 p.m. at the Community Media Center’s studios at 1301 Washington Road in Westminster.

The first, on Tuesday, Oct. 9, will feature the Republican and Democratic candidates running for county commissioners in Districts 3 and 4 — Dennis Frazier, Maria Warburton, Christopher Eric Bouchat and Paul Johnson. As there are only two contested races in the general election, we thought it would make sense to do one forum as opposed to two, since many of the questions facing the county commissioners will be the same regardless of district.

The second is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 10. For this forum, we have invited District 5 Senate candidates incumbent Republican Justin Ready and his Democratic opponent, Jamie O’Marr, both of whom ran uncontested in the primary. We have also invited House of Delegates candidates in District 5, incumbent Republicans Dels. Susan Krebs, April Rose and Haven Shoemaker, and their Democratic opponent Emily Shank.

Unforuntately, the incumbent team has, thus far, declined to participate. My understanding is that Del. Rose had a prior commitment on that date, which is understandable. Dels. Krebs and Shoemaker, however, simply do not find it necessary, according to an email sent Thursday from Shoemaker on behalf of the delegation to the CMC: “As you will recall, we had a televised forum at the CMC in May in which our Democratic opponent was a participant (notwithstanding the fact that she was unopposed). Issues which impact the State of Maryland have not changed since the taping of that forum.”

Certainly, all four remaining candidates did attend the primary forum and, yes, many of the issues have not changed. However, try as we might, no two-hour forum can be truly comprehensive. There are plenty of issues left to address. Not to mention, despite Carroll Republicans considering the primary election the “real election” — it’s been quite a while since a Democrat has been elected to a state or local office by the electorate — the truth is there will be greater overall turnout for the General Election. Voters who may not have been as active during the primary season may have questions they wish to have answered before casting a ballot in the general.

For example, one issue that has bubbled up since the primary is what legislators will do to address a shift in prescription drugs coverage for retirees from the State of Maryland, from a state plan to the federal Medicare Part D plan. Retirees, some on fixed incomes, have expressed concerned regarding whether the change is going to cost them more money to pay for their needed prescriptions.

Let’s face facts, based on Carroll’s voting patterns and Republicans outnumbering Democrats 2-1, it’s probable the incumbent team of Krebs, Rose and Shoemaker will win re-election in November. Shank faces an uphill battle. The incumbents’ decision to skip Wednesday’s forum, however, is disappointing and a disservice to voters who rely on these community forums to make informed choices. I sincerely hope that they reconsider by Wednesday night.

For readers who wish to submit questions for the candidates who have committed to attending these upcoming forums, please email them to