I. Coalition to sponsor the meeting
A. consider your purpose – Does the coalition want to allow questions on any topic relevant to the office? Or does the group wish to find out the attitudes of the candidates on specific issues?
B. Decide on the format
C. Designate responsibilities
A. Time, place (seating capacity; heating or cooling), and hours
B. Enough parking
C. Loud speaker system
III. Inviting the candidates
A. Which candidates to invite – local offices; legislators; statewide; congressional?
B. Names and addresses of candidates are available from the Circuit Clerk’s office.
C. Letter should explain the rules and format of the meeting. One person should be responsible for receiving the answers from candidates on whether they will attend the candidates meeting. Follow up after the original invitation may be necessary.
A. If multiple offices are being invited, schedule the questioning for them; i.e. Board of Education – 7:30 – 8:30; county commissioners – 8:30 – 9:30; etc. (You may wish to schedule more time for the offices in which there are many people who have filed versus offices with few people running.)
B. Questions may be:
a) submitted on cards, with the moderator reading them.
b) asked in person. The problems with b) is that questioners may verbally attack the candidates, spend an inordinate amount of time asking the question, or use the time as a platform for him or herself. The purpose of the candidates meeting is to hear from the candidates.
c) asked by a panel.
C. You may wish to allow the candidates to make introductory statements about themselves. You way also wish for them to cover their position on a certain subject or their experience, education, or training for the job during their introductory presentation. If so, the moderator should indicate that request was made.
D. Time limits are important – Often two minutes are adequate to answer questions. If you allow too much time, candidates ramble.
E. Decide whether the same question may be answered by all the candidates for that office. Consider taking turns on who will answer a question first. Candidates should draw for their sitting position.
V. Moderator, timekeeper, and persons to pass out blank cards and take the filled out ones to the moderator, if that format is chosen.
A. The moderator should be strong but polite, fair, and not publicly supporting any of the candidates.
B. The timekeeper – you may wish for the timekeeper to give a 30 seconds warning to the candidate. The timekeeper should ring a bell when the time is up.
C. when the questions are submitted on cards, sometimes an assistant to the moderator is assigned to go through the cards and put similar questions together for the moderator.
VI. Public Relations – consider radio and cable TV announcements; posters; announcements in organizations’ newsletters.
A. Greeters should be at the door to welcome the candidates. Name tags with the name and office sought should be available and it is also helpful for the candidates if name tags are on everyone who attends. You will need a sign up sheet for candidates to find out who has arrived.
B. Start on time! If a few candidates have not yet arrived, start anyway.
C. You may wish to allow time at the end for refreshments and informal, one-on-one interactions.
D. An enhancement for the audience would be a handout with a brief description of each office. If legislators represent multiple counties, it would be useful to include those counties on the description.