Important election, forum

Published 10:56 am Saturday, September 24, 2011

Given the enormous challenges and opportunities awaiting the winners over the next four years, it’s hard to imagine a more important election than upcoming balloting for four contested seats on the Southampton County Board of Supervisors.

On Wednesday night, we’ll do our best to give voters some insight on their choices.

Seven of eight candidates in the Franklin, Capron, Jerusalem and Newsoms districts have accepted invitations to participate in a forum at 7 p.m. at Southampton High School. Incumbent Franklin District Supervisor Walter Young Jr. likely won’t make it because of a longstanding out-of-state medical appointment that day.

The Tidewater News has solicited questions in advance from voters, and we’ve received some dandies. We hope to receive a few more between now and Wednesday. Between their opening and closing statements, candidates will field questions on the important issues facing county government’s leadership.

The questions will be tough but fair. Questions will stick to the issues, not personalities. “Gotcha” questions targeting an individual will be weeded out. Each candidate will have up to three minutes to address each question that is asked.

The questions I’ve seen so far will do a terrific job of testing candidates’ knowledge of the issues and their philosophies about governance.

Questions will not be shared with the candidates in advance, but it’s clear based on those submitted to date that voters are concerned about jobs, taxation, indebtedness and schools.

Serious voters should take advantage of this and other opportunities in the weeks ahead to learn where the candidates stand. The Tidewater News will follow up after Wednesday’s forum with additional issue-based coverage in the newspaper. Perhaps other organizations will sponsor forums. The more, the merrier. The stakes are high.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is