Tonight’s big candidate forum question: Will the Republicans show up?

My friend Buddy Moorehouse is right. Tonight’s candidate forum, sponsored by The Livingston Post — along with WHMI-93.5 FM, Voter’s Voice, the League of Women Voters of Brighton/Howell, and the chambers of commerce in Brighton, Hartland and Howell — is going to be the premier pre-election event in Livingston County.

It’s also likely the ONLY event in which you’ll likely see ALL the candidates running for election.

Earlier this month were two events in which not all the candidates were either invited or in attendance.

The first was the Oct. 5 Economic Development Power Lunch: Meet the Candidates! event that featured only Republicans despite there being Democrat candidates, too. The event was repackaged as a Legislative Update, and went on pretty much as planned, with only Republicans speaking.

Then, just a couple days later, at the Pinckney Lakeland Hamburg Hell Chamber of Commerce candidate event, the Republican candidates for state and national office didn’t attend.

They did, however, have a representative show up to read a statement for them; a nice gesture, for sure, but no substitute for the candidate actually showing up to answer questions.

It was a packed house in Hamburg, too, with questions coming from the audience.

I asked Dan Wholihan, chairperson of the Livingston County Republican Party, what was up with that.

“I can’t speak for the candidates who did not attend,” Wholihan said, adding that he was there to support “my commissioners who were there.”

Organizer Rick Beaudin shrugged off the absences: “There was nothing to it other than other commitments,” he said.

Maybe so, I figured, but the date of that forum had been public knowledge for quite a while. Candidates should have had it on their calendar. And if that many candidates couldn’t make it, surely it could have been rescheduled.

I chided myself for going into full conspiracy-theory mode. But then I read this piece, about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz not showing up to a CNN town hall event.

It got me wondering, once again, whether there was something more to the Republicans not showing up in Hamburg.

A couple trips around the Internet turned up the same situation in other places. Republicans weren’t showing up for candidate forums in Florida and North Carolina and Pennsylvania and North Dakota and New Mexico.

One theory pinned what appears to be a Republican boycott of League of Women events after the arrest of Virginia Kase, the head of the national LWV, at a protest against the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another theory holds that the format of the event is what matters most — like with the Hamburg forum here in Livingston County — because some candidates (in this case, Republicans) want more control over what and how they’re asked, preferring scripted questions to those from the audience.

I don’t know which theory — if either — is accurate.

Tonight’s event is both LWV-sponsored AND scripted, and as far as I know, all the candidates are showing up, which is a good, good thing.

For details on tonight’s forum, click here.


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Journalist Maria Stuart worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. These days, she runs The Livingston Post.