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It's a scene all too familiar in Collin County. A civic group sponsors a debate, but refuses to invite the Democratic Party's candidates.
This practice is unfair, wrong and needs to be stopped.
From: Tony Felker
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 4:50 PM
To: County Chairs
Subject: Frisco Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum - Feb. 6, 6 p.m. Start
Dan, Dianne, Kathy, and Neil,
This is Tony Felker with the Governmental Affairs department of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce. I am introducing myself as I see all of us having a very busy year ahead of us, and I hope that we can all work together to get as many people as possible involved in ALL of the many upcoming races that will be affecting Frisco, Collin County, and Denton County.
Over the course of the year, and beyond, I hope we can build a very good relationship, share information, promote events, work together on issues affecting business in our area of North Texas, etc. As part of that, I would very much like to get to meet each of you on an individual basis in the coming months and see what we can do together to help improve voter turnout, awareness of the issues, communication with our legislators, etc.
At your convenience, please let me know what will be the best ways to communicate with you, as well as when might be a good time to get together sometime in the near future.
In the meantime, I wanted to bring to your attention that the Frisco Chamber of Commerce PAC will be hosting a Candidate’s Forum for the County Commissioner races in each county that involve Frisco: Precinct 1 in Denton County, and Precincts 1 and 3 in Collin County. Attached is a press release with all of the details.
As it turns out, and in order to maximize the time on the contested races in the March Primary election, all of the invited candidates in these three precincts are Republicans as the two Democrats running for Precinct 1 and 3 in Denton and Collin County, respectively, are unopposed in the Primaries. Rest assured, as we get closer to November and we have candidates from both parties in these three elections, we will have a future forum with all contested races present at that time.
However, for the February 6 Forum, I would be most appreciative if you could please circulate this press release to any of your respective Men’s and Women’s Groups, post to Calendars of importance, etc.
Please let me know what other information you might need, what we can do to work together in the days ahead, and when might be a good time to get to know each of you better. Also, please bail me out if I have any incorrect information! Look forward to a great year ahead.
Frisco Chamber of Commerce
It happened to me 2 years ago. Judge Peyton and his Teen Court held a candidate forum at Plano City Hall. Only Republicans were invited. This must not happen again.
In response to Mr. Faulkner's letter, I sent him this reply:
From: Bill Baumbach
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 10:27 PM
To: Tony Faulkner
Subject: Candidate Forum
Dear Mr. Faulkner,
Two years ago, I was the Democratic Party’s nominee for Collin County Commissioner in Precinct 2.
Before the primary, the Collin County Teen Court held a forum. They only invited Republicans - their arguments were identical to yours, that only the Republicans were running in contested races.
I disagreed, and so did the local papers. Below please read the editorial the Plano Star Courier published. The Teen Court is a great asset to the county, but in this case, their leadership made them look like partisan hacks.
The Frisco Chamber of Commerce is also a great asset to the counties it serves. I would be saddened to see its leadership drag the good name of the Chamber into a partisan political fray.
This issue will not go away – Democracy needs all voices to be heard. The voters deserve to hear all parties. The Frisco Chamber of Commerce must be fair and not appear to be blacklisting the minority party.
I ask you to reconsider. Do the right thing, and invite all candidates to speak.
Editorial in the Plano Star Courier
Forum should have included all candidates
When he won his first office at the age of 18 in 1990 and became the world's youngest elected judge, Plano Justice of the Peace John E. Payton set a wonderful example for youth. He showed the kind of political determination, effort and commitment that all of us of any age can admire. Payton brought to the political scene a refreshing, surprising and even inspiring example of leadership and dedication, and he has generally continued in that direction since.
Though not especially innovative in national terms, his teen court, in which youth judge each other, appears to have been a success. This year, teen court branched out a bit by deciding to hold a Collin County candidates' forum that Payton said would "expose youth to the political process" by hearing candidates "comment on how their offices impact the youth."
This was a wonderful idea, but it fell apart in the execution -- and some uninvited candidates were, rightfully, quick to point that out.
Payton said that only those candidates in contested races were invited to participate in the Feb. 4 event at Plano Municipal Center. Not only was this restriction itself sort of silly, but Payton's own organizational procedures were inconsistent. A county commissioner who has no declared opponent in the March 7 Republican primary, for example, was invited. Payton himself has no primary opposition. So, should he have left himself off of the guest list? Democrats, opposed or not, appear to have been omitted from the event altogether.
In short, this was an instance -- not uncommon in politics -- of a good idea gone bad.
The inconsistency in applying the rules, coupled with restriction to one party's participants, gave this event not so much the appearance of a forum as of a gathering of the party faithful. And a judge, of all people, should be able to understand the unfairness of that. If Payton wants to participate in Republican Party activities, this it is his prerogative. But the office of a justice of the peace is not a get-out-the-vote platform. It must remain strictly bipartisan in its administration, and any activities conducted under its aegis -- which is where teen court falls -- must adhere to that very same standard.
Anything less sets an unacceptable example for youth.
Tax exempt civic organizations, even here in Collin County, should always strive to at least appear to be non-partisan. Otherwise they do their members and the public a gross disservice.
Opposition voices must never be silenced. Mine will not be.
"Fighting for your business"
Chamber counter article to SourceWatch:
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