April 10, 2013 9:29:14 AM
The first political forum this campaign season that brings together all candidates for mayoral and city council offices will begin 6 p.m. Thursday at the Columbus Municipal Complex.
The forum, sponsored by the Columbus-Lowndes County League of Voters, will begin with a mayoral candidate question-and-answer session to be moderated by Steve Rogers of WCBI followed by one for council candidates. The moderator for the council candidate session was not yet named as of Tuesday, League of Voters President Danny Cunningham said.
Cunningham said all city council candidates have confirmed they will be present for Thursday's forum with the exception of Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor and Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box, who are running unopposed. He said incumbent Mayor Robert Smith, running again as a Democrat, and Republican challenger Glenn Lautzenhiser have also agreed to participate. Cunningham said he has not received confirmation from Independent candidate Bo Jarrett.
Moderators will prepare and ask all questions to candidates. Audience participation will not be allotted due to time constraints, Cunningham said.
A previous series of forums sponsored by the Columbus Exchange Club was held at Lion Hills Golf Club during March and early April. All three mayoral candidates spoke on their platforms March 21. Incumbent Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens, running again as a Democrat, and Republican challenger Susan Mackay, spoke March 7. Ward 6 candidates Whirllie Byrd and incumbent Bill Gavin, both Republicans, made presentations March 28. Challengers Marty Turner and Maurice Webber joined incumbent Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart in making their pitches April 4. Each candidate for the Ward 4 seat is running as a Democrat.
A forum for Ward 5 candidates Kenneth McFarland and incumbent Kabir Karriem was scheduled to take place in March but never did.
Cunningham said he hopes a forum featuring all the candidates will bring more robust discussion from candidates and provide voters more information about their campaign platforms.
"We want to have insight from not only councilmen but mayoral candidates that concerns issues in Columbus as a whole as opposed to one sector of the community. We try to promote and encourage voters to be more educated on what candidates' platforms and visions are," he said. "We hope to bring more of the community out so they can see what the candidates offer to all of Columbus and not just a particular ward because all the councilmen have to work functionally together to make progress."
The primary election will be held May 7, followed by the general election June 4. If necessary, a run-off will be held May 21. Winning candidates will be sworn into office July 1.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
1. Columbus loses a football legend COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Vibrant Church launches $17 million expansion COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Supreme Court sides with Galanis family in appeal STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
5. City Council denies request for ordinance change COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY