April 9, 2014

Candidates forum planned for Dalton is off

Many candidates say prior commitments keep them from appearing

— With only two candidates agreeing to appear, a League of Women Voters forum scheduled for Dalton on April 22 will not take place.

“I just can’t see going ahead and spending League money when so many of the candidates will not be there,” said League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area Co-President Virgelia Meek. “I’m very disappointed.”

The local League and the League of Women Voters of Georgia had invited all qualified candidates for governor and U.S. Senate from Georgia in the May 20 primaries to a forum at the trade center. But Meek said the only two candidates to accept the invitation were former Dalton mayor David Pennington, who is challenging Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary, and Branko “Dr. Rad” Radulovacki, an Atlanta psychiatrist seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate.

Meek said most of the candidates who responded to the League’s invitations said they could not make it because of prior commitment. These were typically at events hosted by their respective political parties in other parts of the state. A spokesman for state schools Superintendent John Barge, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, said he will be speaking to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) that evening, and a spokesman for Deal said he has an official event that evening but did not specify what the event is.

Ken Ellinger, an associate professor of political science at Dalton State College, said the League may have waited too long to schedule the forum. Invitations to the candidates went out just two weeks ago, less than a month before the event was to take place.

“They should have sent out the invitations earlier,” he said. “Candidates at that level have a very heavy schedule that was probably put into place months ago. I don’t think you can throw something together that quickly and expect people to drop their previous engagements to attend. And if they did drop those engagements, the people they canceled on would be very upset.”

Ellinger said outside groups, such as the League, need to work closely with the major parties.

“You need to approach the parties well in advance, because they probably have a master list of the different events they will be holding,” he said. “I’d be surprised if they wouldn’t want to work with the League and try to find a date they can keep free for the League because the parties have an interest in getting their candidates out there and letting people find out more about them.”

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