Snow was flying outside Middle Park High School on Wednesday night, but it was warm inside as about 120 people braved the season's first storm to watch candidates for the Colorado Legislature and Grand County Board of County Commissioners respond to questions.
Few would characterize the forum as a fiery debate, but it had its moments as candidates sparred over a few of the questions posed by student moderators. The moderators - Maddie Lutz, Nico Larson, Emily Dee and Morgan Milstead - did a great job, as did the other students in MPHS civics classes taught by Jack Dugwyler and Jon Kuhns in helping to formulate the questions.
Sheryl Shushan was instrumental as well in helping to organize and stage the event.
Other students contributed too. With the able assistance of Kuhns, Tim Nicklas, Scott Hicks and Grand County TV18's Michael Turner, the student production team of Ben Morgan, Cody Charland, Dylan Kish and Devin Thompson helped deliver a live television feed of the forum to home viewers. Students from Amy Blahnik's Catering II Class prepared scrumptious appetizers served in the commons, and students Amiee Tollett, Hanna Ziegler and Joe Rupp designed the program/fliers for the event.
And, of course, MPHS Principal Scott Eldred and Vice Principal Todd Bittner helped out and were magnanimous enough to provide the venue.
In exchange, the students were treated to an engaging display of grassroots politics and civil disagreements about political philosophies. Personally, I hope one of the take-aways for the students was that political candidates can have substantive differences about their views on governance without resorting to the vacuous and often vicious exchanges that characterize so much of our national politics these days.
An interesting moment occurred when Dugwyler, acting as master of ceremonies, asked the audience how many of them were undecided and how many had already voted. The number of undecided could be counted on one hand. I'm not sure if that says more about the political makeup of Wednesday night's audience or about the state of these races, but it is rare in my experience to see the lines so hardened.
In any event, I'd like to thank the candidates, the audience and everyone else who made the forum a success.
Down to the wire on letters
The remainder of this page is largely occupied by political letters to the editor. While I am greatly encouraged by the level of participation in letters this year, here are a few ground rules as we close in on Election Day:
• It is highly unlikely that we will have space in the two editions that remain before Election Day for all the letters we'll receive between now and then. Letters addressing local issues and candidates will be given preference over those related to national issues. We also are less likely to run letters that repeat the same message other writers have already addressed multiple times.
• Candidates may respond to letters concerning them in a commensurate manner. In other words, please don't send me a 1,000-word letter in response to one that was 150 words. And, aside from direct responses, candidates will be limited to one letter of 400 words or less, time and space permitting.
• Letters that, in the interests of fairness, could be expected to require a response from the opposing side will not be run after Wednesday, Oct. 31.
• Call me at 970-887-3334 or email email@example.com if you have any questions about letters to the editor.
Elections could scarcely be more ill-timed with respect to our deadlines and print publication schedule. We will staff the elections on Tuesday night, Nov. 6, but the results will not appear in the Sky-Hi News until Friday, Nov. 9.
The reason is that our deadline for that Wednesday's edition is hours before the polls close, much less anywhere near the 11 p.m. or midnight timeline in which we expect to have the first unofficial results. Readers will be able to find those results at skyhidailynews.com either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. We will post them within minutes of receiving them from the Grand County Clerk and Recorder. We hope to post other statewide and national results as we receive them throughout the night.
Look for online stories with candidate reactions by about noon Wednesday, if not earlier.
Finally: Please vote. The best way to ensure your privilege to do so is to exercise it.