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Our View: We need a forum in the state Senate District 1 race

The Union Editorial Board

There is no better method of learning about candidates for political office than meeting them in person.

You shake their hand, look them in the eye and ask them the hard questions. The questions the television won’t ask. The questions important to you.

It’s possible we won’t get that chance with state Assemblymen Brian Dahle and Kevin Kiley, both of whom are on the June 4 ballot for the state Senate District 1 seat.

In comparison to last November, this is a tiny election. The state Senate seat is the only question on the ballot. Maybe some folks aren’t aware this election is even happening.

Those details don’t negate the need for a forum where voters and the media can pose questions directly to the candidates.

A forum was tentatively scheduled for western Nevada County last month, as well as in other spots throughout the 1st District. Dahle’s camp said the dates didn’t work, and he wants to reschedule. Kiley is using the forums as an attack against his opponent. Dahle’s campaign has retorted that Kiley came in second in the primary, and is hunting for an issue.

So, pretty much politics as usual.

This problem seeps through both major parties in our political system. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein held what can barely be called a forum with her opponent, former state Sen. Kevin de Leon. The debate occurred at noon on a Wednesday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom had a similar forum with his opponent, John Cox. Just once, on the radio in what was described as non-prime time.

You can give Republican U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa grief over holding only two forums against Democrat Audrey Denney. But he did at least have them. He was there, in person, answering the same questions posed to his opponent.

And that’s what we expect in the state Senate District 1 race.

This isn’t a contest between a Republican and Democrat. Voters can’t rely (and they never should) on party labels alone. That’s especially true in this election because both candidates are Republicans.

A forum is absolutely necessary in this race. Voters need the one-on-one contact with the candidates to discern the nuances between the two.

Both candidates may be Republicans, but this election isn’t limited to only voters of that party. Democrats, no party preference and other voters will cast ballots in this race. Democrats certainly will struggle with their vote. They, and the rest of us, need access to the candidates to better inform their decisions.

Of course, there’s research you can do on your own. Campaign mailers rarely provide quality information. Dahle and Kiley’s websites offer more, though it’s through a highly biased prism.

Searching through our own reporting will give you better insight, as well websites like http://www.votesmart.org.

However, the smartest votes will come from those who speak directly with the candidates.

Time is short. All registered voters in Nevada County are expected to receive ballots in the mail next week. Many of them will vote and return their ballot immediately — all without ever hearing from the candidates themselves.

There is a solution, if both candidates can’t hold a local forum. A representative of The Union will travel to Sacramento and hold a forum with the candidates on Facebook Live. You, the voter, can watch online in real time or afterward if your own schedule doesn’t permit a live view.

All we need is both candidates to agree.

This is a small election, but its importance looms over the 1st state Senate District. The next state senator will represent people from Sacramento to the Oregon boundary.

All of us deserve to be informed when casting our ballots.

And if we can’t talk to the candidates in person, well, talking to them online is the next best thing.

Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.


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