BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
Candidates in a number of state races will put their platforms in front of a live audience this week for the first of two election forums this month.
The first forum is slated to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Vermilion County Farm Bureau on U.S. Route 150 west of Danville. The second will be Oct. 25 at the Village Mall.
As a result of redistricting, Vermilion County is now split among the 51st, 52nd and 53rd districts in the Illinois Senate and the 102nd, 104th and 106th districts in the Illinois House.
Linda Bolton, director of business development and government relations at Vermilion Advantage, is a coordinator of this month’s dual forums. She said candidates in races for each state House and state Senate district involving Vermilion County were invited to attend both forums.
As of Monday, Bolton said confirmations have been received from 51st Senate District incumbent Democratic candidate Michael Frerichs and Republican challenger John Bambenek; 104th House District Republican incumbent Chad Hays and Democratic challenger John Langendorf.
Among candidates in uncontested state races who were invited are Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose, who is running for the 51st Illinois Senate seat; Republican state Rep. Jason Barickman, who is running for the 53rd Illinois Senate seat; Republican 101st District state Rep. Adam Brown, who is running for a seat in the 102nd House District; and 106th House District candidate Josh Harms, a Republican.
In addition, 15th District U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, as well as Democratic challenger Angela Michael of Highland have been invited to the forums.
Bolton said previous forums were conducted for the most recent mayoral race in Danville as well as the elections two years ago. Both received good turnouts from residents. The forums are sponsored by the Vermilion County Farm Bureau, Neuhoff Media and Vermilion Advantage.
Just like previous years, however, residents will not have to attend to listen in on the action. Both forums will be broadcast on radio station WDAN-AM and will be streamed live and archived on the station’s website.
Despite the various media options available to hear from candidates, Bolton said it is still important for people to hear from the candidates up close.
“Every time they have a chance to see the candidates in person and hear what they have to say, it helps them fine tune what they want in a leader,” she said. “We hope to do that.”
Bolton added it seems like more and more people are not tightly tied to a specific political party, making events like the forums even more important.
“You have an awful lot of people that are concerned about our present and future,” she said.
For these forums, however, the public will be simply listening to the candidates rather than asking questions of them. Given the radio broadcast’s 90-minute time frame, Bolton — who is the moderator — will handle asking the candidates a number of questions on a range of issues.
Because the forum is at the Farm Bureau, a few of the questions will touch on agricultural issues. But questions also will cover a range of other issues at the forefront for candidates and voters.
“There’s a broad area that we want to look at and believe is of concern to people interested in who they choose or keep in office,” Bolton said.