Is it tape anymore? Probably not. I’m sure it’s all digital.
But I digress. Here is an FAQ about the round-table election forums, which the Contra Costa Times has helped produce for more than a decade.
What races will be included?
Antioch City Council, Antioch Unified School District, Assembly District 11, Assembly District 15, Brentwood City Council, Clayton City Council, Concord City Council, Congressional District 10, Congressional District 11, Congressional District 7, District Attorney, Hercules City Council, Lafayette City Council, Liberty Union High School District (Brentwood), Martinez City Council, Martinez Mayor, Moraga Town Council, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Oakley City Council, Orinda City Council, Pleasant Hill City Council, San Pablo City Council, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Walnut Creek City Council, Walnut Creek School District
Who pays for the production?
The largest financial contributor continues to be the Lesher Foundation of Walnut Creek. The other backers, in money or staffing or both, are the Contra Costa Times, Contra Costa Council, Contra Costa TV, Contra Costa Elections Department and Scholar-Olli from Cal-State East Bay. Unlike prior years, Comcast no longer staffs a public access television studio and cannot provide valuable crew for the show. Instead, the cities Walnut Creek, Richmond and Concord have generously allowed us the use of their talented staff.
A lot of races are not on this list. How are the races selected?
Unfortunately, there are far more races than we have money.
Several months ago, we established a priority list: Federal, state, county, city, school boards and special districts. After the filing deadline passed and we knew which races would be contested, we started from the top of the list and worked our way down until we had filled 25 slots.
It is not how I would have selected the races. I would have preferred we focus on the most competitive races rather than spend time on the races where the incumbent is overwhelmingly favored to win. But that involves a judgment call about what constitutes “competitive” and the other sponsors wanted to use a more objective selection process.
Will all the candidates participate?
The vast majority of the candidates have agreed to participate. But unfortunately, it is not possible to craft a three-day schedule that meshes with everyone’s schedule. In the case of a few school teacher candidates, we did run up against the first week of school and those candidates will be permitted to send someone to make a statement on their behalf.
The only candidate to outright decline is Assembly District 15 GOP nominee and San Ramon Abram Wilson. His campaign says he is “too busy” to appear on any of the three days of recording.
That would be unfortunate. We do not cancel a segment for any reason other than a legitimate excuse, i.e., illness or a job demand. If Wilson doesn’t show, we will move ahead with Democratic Assemblywoamn Joan Buchanan, who will have the entire 30 minutes to herself. We are still hoping he will change his mind.
What about the cities of Richmond and Pinole, Assembly District 14 and the West Contra Costa Unified School District? Why aren’t they are on the list?
The West Contra Costa League of Women voters chose to conduct the candidate forums in these races in a different venue rather than collaborate with the Diablo Valley League of Women voters. I’ll keep you posted when I receive information about their plans.
Who wrote the questions?
I compiled the questions with the help of the beat reporters. I have spent the past week going through the clips and working to understand the major issues of each of the 25 jurisdictions that will rotate through the television studio in the next three days.
No one outside the Contra Costa Times will see the questions, including the other sponsors.
A few candidates or their campaign managers have called and asked about the questions. Here is what I told them: “If you know the issues in your community, none of the questions will surprise you.”
What is the format?
As the moderator, I will conduct a round-table style discussion with the candidates about the major issues in the race. It is my job to make sure that each candidate has equal opportunity to address each of the issues. The candidates will end with a closing statement of 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the number of candidates in the race.
Most of the segments are 30 minutes. We expanded the time on several races, including Antioch and Concord, due to the large number of candidates.
When and where will the segments air?
Contra Costa TV is coordinating the air dates with Comcast, the cities and other providers of public access television. The county’s channel, for example, is Channel 26. We will publish a complete air date schedule next week and stories, complete with the airing schedule, will start appearing in the newspaper next week.
I don’t have cable. Will the round-tables be available online?
Yes, at www.contracostatimes.com. Give us a week or so for post-production. I’ll post their availability on the blog as soon as they go up.
Are the tapings open to the public?
No. The Contra Costa TV studio is very small and we simply don’t have room to accommodate a live audience.
The election is not until Nov. 2. Why are you recording the previews so early?
We moved the recording sessions up a few weeks from our typical schedule due to the growing numbers of people who vote by mail. The vote-by-mail ballots go out the first week of October and if we wait until after Labor Day to conduct the preview recordings, it doesn’t provide as much time for the public to watch the segments prior to the arrival of their ballots.
Granted, many voters wait until the last week to mail those ballots but we want to provide more voter education. That is, after all, the reason why we produce the previews.