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CoCo election previews set for taping

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Monday, August 23rd, 2010 at 11:11 am in 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics.

The tapings of the traditional election previews of Contra Costa County races will be held Tuesday through Thursday.

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.

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  • John W

    As somebody who voted for Buchanan for AD 15 last time but is leaning strongly toward Wilson this time, I’m very surprised that he declined to participate. What is he thinking?

  • DanvilleDemocrat

    It’s because Wilson’s a joke.

  • John W

    Re: #2 DanvilleDemocrat

    How’s that? Partisan politics aside, most people think he’s done a pretty good job as a pragmatist mayor and councilman. I’m a Democrat. If I vote for him, it will be as much a vote against Buchanan’s record as a vote FOR Wilson.

  • REW

    I’m anxious to see a debate between the two DA candidates Dan O’Malley and Mark Peterson. I ‘d be most interested in learning wny Mark Peterson has no law enforcement backing in his campaign, and instead seems to be relying solely on garbage companies and developers to finance his campaign.

  • Truthclubber

    John W and others of that ilk:

    Perhaps because he (Wilson, mayor of a very successful city despite all of the economic woes) smells the strong odor of “Democratic incumbent favoritism” (Tauscher, now Garamendi; McNerney, and our lovely Queen Joan XIV) that is Lisa Vorderbrueggen no matter how she tries to deflect (aka shuck and jive) that.

    The proof of a real lack of bias would be his (Wilson’s) acceptance — but she’s too proud and too leftist to eat crow, but some centrist muzzles on her questioning, and allow THAT.

  • Elwood

    Ah, Toothsucker, so nice to see you back.

    But you sound like when they turned you loose, you went off your meds again!

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    With a few exceptions, this reads like a version of “Dinner for Schmucks”

  • John W

    Re: #4 REW

    I agree about the need for more info and insights on the DA candidates. I voted for O’Malley before but had second thoughts. Seems like a nice guy who just wants a job and to carry on the family business, but without any sense of purpose about what he wants to accomplish, other than deal with the internal strife in the DA office.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Then, there are the State Propositions and local Measures…

  • John W

    Re: #9

    True! It’s all very complicated. Could the Times just tell us how to vote on this stuff so that we won’t get headaches thinking about what to do?

  • Elwood

    Don’t worry John W, they will a few days before the election.