On Aug. 14, Rock County voters will be participating a partisan primary election featuring more candidates running for a variety of offices than in recent memory.
There are currently eight Democratic candidates for governor (and a Republican registered to go up against Gov. Scott Walker as well); Republican and Democratic primaries for secretary of state and state treasurer; a Republican primary for U.S. senator; five Republicans and two Democrats running in 1st Congressional District primaries; and Democratic primaries for both Rock County sheriff and the race for Rock County clerk of circuit courts.
WOW, that is a lot of candidates. How can one hope to become familiar with them and be that educated voter we all want to be?
In two weeks, the Rock County 4-H Fair will again provide residents of Southern Wisconsin with a wealth of entertainment. However, it also affords residents an opportunity to gain some perspective and knowledge about the candidates who will appear on the Aug. 14 primary ballot, if only we take advantage of the opportunity.
For many years (this one included), the Democratic and Republican parties have had their tents within a stone’s throw of each other. While most fairgoers tend to wander only into the tent of the party with which they identify, I encourage everyone to visit both locations. Engage in discussions that are important to you with the volunteers and candidates that are staffing each tent.
The respective parties usually provide a schedule of when candidates or representatives will be available, and this is one of the best places to engage a candidate on issues of interest to you. Media companies provide great services in asking general policy questions to candidates, but the nature of mass media makes it impossible to indulge individual members of the audience with specific questions. The fair is a unique opportunity. The two political parties have coexisted on the grounds, within sight of each other, without protests or angry rhetoric for many years. Amidst the general atmosphere of food and family fun, this may be the most comfortable time ever to quiz candidates and party members on any number of issues.
Each party has a lot to gain or lose in the upcoming primary. In the case of the governor’s race, the Democratic Party needs to select their candidate who has the best chance of beating Scott Walker. With a field of eight, I suspect Democrats are hoping that Wisconsinites will find one candidate who stands out as the best choice. In order for that to happen, the electorate needs to be informed, and that is a time-consuming task. What better way to mix your political business with pleasure? When you send the kids off to the midway or over to the animal barns or exhibit halls, you can get some valuable information straight from the source.
I won’t imply that an hour spent at the fair’s political tents is adequate to gain a knowledge of all the candidates. However, it can be a starting point. Newspaper, radio and television coverage can provide additional information in the coming weeks as well. But if you’re afraid the reporting is not up to your standards, the Rock County 4-H Fair is likely the one place where you’ll speak with party representatives and candidates face-to-face. In this politically charged election year, that alone should be worth the price of admission.