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Hopefuls for office to appear at political forum

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By The Staff

Many of Lancaster County's 44,000-plus registered voters heard the two presidential hopefuls argue the issues facing America during a televised debate Wednesday night.

Now voters can learn where hometown candidates stand on issues during the Before You Vote 2008 Candidate Forum.

The forum is 7 p.m. Tuesday in Bundy Auditorium at the Bradley Arts and Sciences Building at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster.

It's co-sponsored by Duke Energy, Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, USCL and The Lancaster News.

Barbara Rutledge, editor of The Lancaster News, said all local candidates who are facing opposition on Nov. 4 have accepted invitations to speak.

That includes the non-partisan Lancaster County school board and Lancaster City Council races, Lancaster County Council District 3 and the state House District 45 and Senate District 16 races.

Candidates without opposition were invited and some will attend.

Candidates for the Lancaster County Soil and Water Conservation District's Cane Creek Watershed and Little Lynches Watershed boards will set up tables at the forum to hand out materials to voters, but they won't be addressing the audience during the question-and-answer session.

Dean Faile, president of Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, said a panel selected the questions to be asked, based on feedback from readers of The Lancaster News and chamber members.

"I'd like to see more people to make submissions, but we tended to see some similarity from many of the questions," Faile said. "It was very hard to include those aimed at a specific candidate; the questions have to be something that everyone in their respective race can answer."

Faile said the candidate who is asked the question first will have 90 seconds to answer. The opposing candidate will have 45 seconds to offer a rebuttal.

"They will take turns going first so that it's fair," Faile said. "All of them will have the opportunity to respond to very issue-specific questions."

There will be two exceptions. Candidates in the City Council races will be on stage together and given an equal amount of time to respond.

"We will alternate so that everyone gets a chance to go first," Faile said. "There has been an unusually high interest in the Lancaster City Council election."

With so much interest in the local state House and Senate races, those candidates will also be given more time to answer questions.

"Our goal is providing an opportunity to learn first-hand where each candidate stands," Faile said.

He said 150 voters came to a similar forum at Indian Land Middle School last Tuesday.

"Usually at this point, the races start boiling over," Faile said. "Tuesday night is going to be a very entertaining and informative night for people to come out and see where the candidates stand. It should be a lot of fun."

Want to go?

WHAT: Before You Vote 2008 Candidate Forum

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: The University of South Carolina at Lancaster's Charles Bundy Auditorium (inside the Bradley Arts and Sciences Building)

HOW MUCH: Free

INFORMATION: 283-4105

Contact features editor Greg Summers at gsummers@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1156.