Gerber: Forums, debates vital links for voters

Gerber: Forums, debates vital links for voters

July 22nd, 2012 by Alison Gerber in Opinion Columns

Evidence is everywhere: Signs cluttering the roadsides, candidates trading accusations, an endless string of political ads on TV.

We're officially in the home stretch for the primary election season.

Georgians head to the polls July 31 and Tennesseans cast their votes two days later on Aug. 2.

And while time is rapidly being crunched, many people still seek information on the candidates and their positions, details they'll use to make a decision on who gets their vote.

To that end, the Times Free Press is sponsoring another debate on Tuesday, this time with the five men hoping be the next sheriff of Catoosa County, Ga. The position was held for 22 years by Sheriff Phil Summers, a Democrat who is retiring. Five Republicans are seeking to replace him: Larry Black, Mike Helton, Jeff Holcomb, Ben Scott and Gary Sisk.

They will meet at the Colonnade in Ringgold, Ga., to answer questions such as whether an "open carry" weapons policy makes sense.

Doors will open to the public at 5:30 p.m. and the debate begins at 6:30 p.m. Bring your questions.

We feel it's important to give the public a chance to hear from the sheriff candidates, since whoever is elected as Catoosa's top law enforcement official will be new to the job. The newspaper circulates in all or part of 11 Georgia counties, and Catoosa County is one of our highest circulation counties.

This is the fourth debate or political forum the newspaper has sponsored this political season. The first, in partnership with WRCB-TV, dealt with GOP candidates in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District. The second hosted the seven candidates running for Hamilton County General Sessions Court.

The third, in partnership with the NAACP and WRCB, hosted Democrats in the 3rd Congressional District, as well as candidates in the Tennessee Legislature and Hamilton County races.

We're in the information business and hosting political debates is another way of getting information about candidates to voters.

On both election nights - July 31 and Aug. 2 - we will again be doing as much as possible to get information out.

The newspaper's website will have frequent updates on local, state and congressional races

provided by a team of Times Free Press reporters. We'll have constant vote count updates that are broken down to the county level on all congressional and state Legislature races and statewide ballot issues, provided by The Associated Press.

In addition to covering election night in real time on our website, we'll have results in the next day's paper.

Then we'll come back with more in-depth coverage to explain what the election results mean, how the day-to-day lives of residents will be affected by who's been elected and who's been cast out.

Voter turnout could be low next week. That's a shame. Keep in mind that those eventually elected will win the power to make decisions about all sorts of things that directly impact our daily lives, things such as the property tax rate, where new schools get built, whether you must go to traffic school because you were caught speeding.

Your vote can make a difference in your life, in the lives of your loved ones and family, so it's not something to be casually made or apathetically ignored.

Rest assured, the Times Free Press has not and will not take the upcoming elections lightly.

Alison Gerber is the managing editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at Send suggestions to