It has been an odd election season nationally and now it seems like it may be here in our town as well. The Lake Oswego Citizens Action League (LOCAL) has hosted candidate events during the 2012 and 2014 City elections. LOCAL sent out invitations to an event to the three candidates for Mayor in July after they announced their candidacy. Dave Berg responded immediately with a “yes”. Strangely, two candidates have declined to participate.
Jon Gustafson responded “no”, adopting the position that it was inappropriate for a Political Action Committee (PAC) to sponsor a debate. Kent Studebaker responded about a week later, stating he would only participate if all candidates were present.
We are puzzled as to why two candidates for the city’s highest office would refuse an opportunity to present their views to the public. A PAC is a perfectly legal and appropriate way for a group of interested citizens to raise money to conduct such an event. As a matter of fact, LOCAL’s event for the candidates for Mayor in 2012 was well attended, perhaps the best attended event of that year’s race. Our 2016 event has been planned for a Sunday afternoon which, given the busy schedules of so many in our community, is the best time for many.
For those who might suggest that the candidate forums the Review has planned will fill the needs of the community, we counter with this: our country is in the midst of an unprecedented political season, where interest has never been higher. The Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have combined for dozens of nationally televised debates and forums. Secondly, we live in an era where the word transparency gets thrown around a lot. Why wouldn’t a candidate want to elucidate their positions to as many potential voters as possible? What is there to fear? Lastly, a mayor is supposed to represent all of the people, not just those that are in lockstep with their views. We would hate to think that a candidate is refusing to participate based upon an assumption of ideology. Our world is far more nuanced than that.
Make no mistake: we will be holding our event regardless of whether one or all candidates show up. That is why we whole-heartedly ask that the candidates who have refused to participate reconsider their positions. We would also ask that you, our fellow voters, encourage them to do the same. Our community needs all candidates to be present, so that we may avoid replacing flesh and blood candidates with cardboard cutouts that are as flimsy as a random excuse.
Rich Akerman, Gerry Good, Rick Petry and Cheryl Salamie