Forum reveals opposing views in District 18 race
Questions raised about candidate notifications

       In a political gathering that was noteworthy in part for who was not there, three political candidates for Westside districts answered questions from the Black Leadership Forum (BLF) and Black Chamber of Commerce Sept. 19 at the Hillside Center southeast of downtown.
       Not there was Republican District 11 State Senator Ed Jones. His absence was emphasized by Ron Cousar of the BLF in comments to the audience at the end of the candidate forum, but according to Jones' campaign spokesperson, Sarah Brittain Jack, the senator “did not know of the event.”
       Attending the meeting, but also claiming he had not been contacted by the BLF or the Black Chamber, was another Republican, Kyle Fisk, the challenger for District 18 state representative. “We were not invited by anyone and just found out about it,” Nathan Fisk, his brother, commented the day before.
       The Fisk campaign appeared to recover quickly, however, and, based on applause, had the largest contingent of supporters on hand.
       Others in attendance included Democrat District 11 challenger John Morse and District 18 incumbent State Representative Michael Merrifield.
       In all there were three Republican candidates at the forum and six Democrats. One of the other Republicans, District 14 candidate Kent Lambert, shared an e-mail with the Pioneer that he had received from Cousar Sept. 14. Titled “Candidate Forum,” it contained no text but had an attachment flyer giving event particulars.
       Lambert's e-mail showed it had been sent to other addresses as well. One of these belongs to Jones, but Jack said that the senator uses a different e-mail for campaign activities. In any case, she said, “he did not get” the e-mail and there had been no follow-up from the BLF prior to the event.
       The Pioneer left a phone message with Cousar the day after the meeting, but it was unreturned at press deadline.
       In his opening comments, Morse stressed immigration, water, health care and education as key issues. In answers to questions, he supported keeping affirmative action to counteract discrimination, opposed oil companies making “obscene” profits during the recent time of high gas prices, and called for greater efforts to penalize convicted offenders in ways other than prison.
       Fisk and Merrifield presented differing views on nearly all issues, with no personal digs other than Merrifield at one point terming his opponent “Pastor Kyle” - a reference to Fisk's position as a Christian minister.
       Education was one area showing a difference. A strong supporter of public schools, Merrifield decried the federal No Child Left Behind mandate, saying less affluent districts “can't afford” what's necessary to meet its achievement standards and criticizing a system in which “less than 1 percent of the students at CU are of color.”
       Fisk, noting that half the black students in District 11 do not graduate from high school, said all students would do better if parents had more educational choices and a sense of local control.
       Another contrast came in a question regarding the impacts of higher gas prices. “We have an obligation to those who don't have a choice (of driving a car),” Merrifield said, in calling for greater emphasis on mass transit and alternate energy sources.
       Fisk also spoke out for alternate sources - along with drilling for more oil - but said he preferred to see the overall energy situation as a challenge. “We are a creative and innovative people,” he said. “We should take this as no more than another obstacle to overcome.”

Westside Pioneer article