Candidate forum gives voters a closer look

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) With a month to go to election day, campaigns are scrambling to get their messages to the voters.

Rarely does the public have the chance to see them in the same setting, side by side, up close.

And that makes events-- like a candidates' forum hosted by the Soroptimist and Rotary Clubs at the Atlantis Thursday-- all the more valuable.

The format was simple and, as it turned out, mostly non-confrontational. The candidates paraded up to the podium and each had three minutes to introduce themselves, explain their positions and connect with the audience. There were no questions--at least until the candidates stayed around afterward for some one-on-one conversations.

But at a time when political battles are fought primarily with dueling mailers and TV attack ads, there was value--we were told--in seeing them in the flesh, getting a sense of the person behind the campaign.

"You get a lot of brochures in the mail and I tend to toss them," said Mary Both Rosellli.."I like to see them on the stage when they're facing a crowd."

"It's a great event," agrees Carmla Cipolini, "because I didn't know a lot of the people and I was going to look them up. It's great to listen to them speak and find out what's on their minds and how they're going to proceed."

Kay Dunham said it helped to focus not only on what you want in a candidate, but what you don't.

"It kind of opens us up to listen to what they say and then evaluate it into how we think things should be going."

And that was the idea, according to Pam Sutton, one of the organizers. "It's so important to have people educated before they walk into the voting booth."

No one was paying closer attention than Aimel Hamid,.a brand new, recently sworn American citizen from Afghanistan. In a month he'll be voting in his first American election.

"It's my first time and I'm extremely blessed to be able to live here as a citizen now."

"I'm not going to make my definite picks right now because of what I hear. I'm going to go home and do some more research on what they stand for and then I'll make up my mind and vote for them."

That's how it's done when it's done right.