"Free cookies, free coffee and free information."
According to Diana McKenney of Kasilof, that's what the public can expect at Thursday's League of Women Voters candidate forum scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. in the commons area of Kenai Peninsula College.
Both House and Senate candidates running for office in Alaska's Nov. 7 general election have been invited to participate. Competing for Senate District E are Mike Szymanski, a Democrat from Anchorage, Jerry Ward, an Anchorage Republican, and William D. Bartee, a Green Party member, also from Anchorage.
Running for House District 7 are Amy Bollenbach, Democrat, and Drew Scalzi, Republican, both of Homer. In the race for District 8 are Soldotna candidates Pete Sprague, Democrat, and Ken Lancaster, Republican. District 9 candidates are James R. Price, a Republican Moderate from Nikiski, Harold "Hal" Smalley, a Democrat from Kenai, and Republican Charles M. "Mike" Chenault.
"A lot of the time, people don't even know what (voting) district they're in," said McKenney, president of the state League chapter. "This is an opportunity for them to not only find out, but to meet the candidates face to face."
According to McKenney, the League has been providing Kenai Peninsula voters and candidates with this type of opportunity for 20 years. She said questions posed by the League Thursday will "stick to basic main issues." The evening also will include an opportunity for the public to ask questions.
"Candidates typically are invited to speak by special interest groups," McKenney said of other forums. "This is a longer, broader forum that's open to everyone."
Sammy Crawford, of Kenai, will moderate Thursday evening's event, drawing from a list of five questions prepared by the League. She will also call on people from the audience wanting to ask questions.
"Each candidate will be allowed a two-minute opening statement and be given one minute to respond to questions," Crawford said of the five questions prepared by the League to ask candidates.
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government, has roots dating back to the suffragist movement. It was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920, during the convention of the National American Women Suffrage Association.
Six months later, the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified, which gave women the right to vote. A World Wide Web site at www.lwv.org provides information on the organization and offers guidelines for evaluating both national and state candidates.
In spite of the name, membership is open to both men and women 18 years of age or older. McKenney said the League has approximately 250 members in Alaska with 21 on the peninsula.
"The other thing we're doing is a nationwide effort to have an Internet site where candidates are able to go in and put in their statements," McKenney said.
However, candidates across the country are slow to make use of the World Wide Web site at www.dnet.org, according to McKenney.
"What we're hearing is that they're reluctant to commit to their positions on issues, not only for the voters but for their opponents," she said of the site that allows voters to access information on local candidates by using their zip code. "We're trying to encourage them so it can be a one-stop shop that can be accessed by voters 24 hours a day."
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