Legislative candidates make sure to mention they’ll have town halls

Several political candidates in Clark County this election season have made a point to distance themselves from politicians who have stopped having town halls, and legislative candidates participating in a forum hosted earlier this month by the League of Women Voters of Clark County were no exception.

During the forum, the five House candidates were asked: “What will you do to provide outreach to gather public input from your constituents?”

Republican candidate Julie Olson answered in part by saying a good way to learn from constituents is “actually getting out and having town halls.”

Her opponent, Democrat Monica Stonier, also drove home the importance of town hall meetings.

“I really feel that unfortunately we see a lot of elected officials who are not necessarily open to open forums,” Stonier said.

Town halls have been a topic of talk in Clark County, especially since U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, stopped hosting them more than a year ago.

Since then, Herrera Beutler has replaced her traditional style town halls with smaller meetings with invited constituents over coffee, although nobody is turned away at the door if they find out about the event some other way. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of constituents in the area around the coffee event location receive a telephone alert inviting them. Those alerts sometimes go out less than 24 hours prior to the event.

Herrera Beutler’s political opponents, Democrat Jon Haugen and nonpartisan Norma Stevens, have made sure to work town hall meetings into their campaign efforts.

Another candidate at the League of Women Voters forum, Democrat David Shehorn, also promised to hold town halls.

“I think that the public has a right to have a one-on-one discussion,” Shehorn said. “The citizens have to show some respect and not get into a totally confrontational session, as has happened in the past, but I believe that I could work with the citizens to make a public appearance a reasonable appearance.”

Republican candidate Liz Pike said she’s already hosted five town hall meetings during her campaign. Democrat Ryan Gompertz said: “confrontational though they may be, I think (town halls are) probably the best way that representatives can get a real idea about how people are feeling.”

Some candidates also stressed the importance of using newer technologies, such as social media, to reach out to constituents. Shehorn said if elected he would have monthly webinars with the people in his district.

You can download video of the League of Women Voters forum on Clark-Vancouver Television’s website.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics

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