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Host a Candidate Forum Guide

Host a Candidate Forum Guide

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Published by: teapartypatriots on Aug 24, 2012
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Tea Party Patriots 2012 Get Out the Vote
 
1
 
Hosting a Candidate Forum
Note: The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) have very tight restrictions on candidate forums, especially debates for federal candidates, including format, location, broadcasting during and after the event, candidate participation, etc. Please review all FEC, IRS, and state laws before proceeding with a forum, especially if the candidates are running for federal office.
 A candidate forum gives the voters a unique opportunity to hear and communicate directly to the candidates intheir area. They can be done in a variety of formats, ranging from Q & A to debate style. The primary purposeof a candidate forum is to provide an opportunity to the voter to get informed on issues of the day. A forum can also help the candidates understand the issues important to your community and your organization. It can also help you to build relationships with future elected officials. As with any event, good planning is critical to a successful forum. This guide will help you in the planningprocess. It is up to you how much, or how little, of this outline you choose to follow. It is your community andyou know it best. Adapt these suggestions to your community.
NOTE
: TPP is putting together a voter guide for federal candidates. If you are hosting a candidate forum in the2012 season, please consider asking the three questions from our voter guide, preferably on video, and sendthe results to Amy at amyb@teapartypatriots.org.When you send the footage, make sure to identify the candidate. The 3 questions are:
1) Will you fully repeal Obamacare? 2) Will you balance the budget within 5 years without increasing taxes? 3) For Senate Leadership and Speaker of the House, whom would you vote for? 
 The following is a check list of things to do when planning and hosting a candidate forum.
 
Phase 1- Plan
Establish a forum committee
Identify group or media partners
Set date, time, and place
Decide on the format
Set a forum budget
Develop a marketing strategy
Select a moderator and invite
 
Phase 2 - Invite
Send invitations to candidates
Make initial media contacts
Volunteer recruitment
Follow up with candidates
 
Phase 3- Reconfirm
Confirm candidates
Reconfirm site arrangements
Reconfirm volunteers
Distribute promo materials
Send press release
Contact media
Reconfirm moderator 
Phase 4- Event
Complete set-up at forum
Volunteers greet people
Welcome and thank
Review ground rules for forum
Informal Q&A after the forum
 
 
Tea Party Patriots 2012 Get Out the Vote
 
2
 
The following information provides more detailed information on things to consider while organizing acandidate forum.
Partisan v. Nonpartisan
When you hold your forum may dictate whether it is partisan or nonpartisan. Candidate forums during ageneral election in which all candidates are invited, by its nature, is nonpartisan. Likewise, a forum held duringa primary election for a particular party is partisan. Either way, if you are a nonprofit 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 youshould be careful to allow the forum to be partisan or nonpartisan based on its nature, not because you areendorsing one party over the other.To insure that your organization remains nonbiased, you should consider the following:1. The candidates should discuss a
broad range of issues
, or if there is a specific theme, all candidatesshould be made aware of the theme before the forum.2. Make sure each candidate receives
equal time
to present their position.3. The forum moderator should stay neutral. At times this is very difficult to do, but moderator should notindicate approval or disapproval of the candidates or their responses.4. You should
invite all viable candidates
to the forum and encourage each of them to attend equally. Of 
course “viable” is up to interpretation, you know your community, you decide who is viable and who isnot. Be sure to apply your “viable” test to all candidates equally.
 5.
Confirm with all candidates
that they are coming. If candidates do not show make it clear to theaudience that they were invited. Sometimes it is helpful to still provide a chair and nametag for thecandidate so the audience receives the obvious message that the candidate was invited but chose notto attend. If only one candidate attends continue on with the forum with the clear disclosure that your organization is not necessarily endorsing that candidate.
You must be cautious, an “empty chair” forum
or a forum with an unopposed candidate may be considered an endorsement by the IRS and could affect your 501(c) 3 or 4 status and in many cases may violate federal election laws for federal candidates.
 6. Determine how much
audience involvement
you will allow in relation to partisan or individualcandidate support. You may choose to ask the audience to be equally respectful of all candidates andrefrain for any excessive response for or against the candidates. However, you may choose toencourage a totally open audience response so the candidates and other people in the audience canbecome further informed on community response to the issues and candidates.7. If candidates answers are timed, be sure to
enforce the time limits
strictly and equally for allcandidates.
 
 
Tea Party Patriots 2012 Get Out the Vote
 
3
 
Format
Q&A Format- Equal Time
In a questions and answers, equal time format the moderator asks the candidates a question and eachcandidate is given an equal time to answer the question. The moderator may choose to ask a follow-upquestion in which each candidate again had an equal time to answer.
Q&A Format- Random Time
 In a questions and answers, random time format the moderator, at their discretion, will ask acandidate(s) of their choosing, a question. The moderator may choose to ask follow-up questions toone or more candidates as well. The moderator should still attempt to balance the time and questionsamong the candidates.
Debate Format
 A debate format allows the candidates to interact with each other. The level of that interaction is up toyou. They could be limited to responding only to specific challenges, responding to answers from theother candidate(s), each candidate may be allowed to ask other candidate(s) questions, etc. It is stillrecommended to adhere to time limits during the debate format.
Town Hall Format
The town hall format allows audience members to ask the candidate(s) of their choosing questions. Thequestions could be asked directly by the audience, or if more control is desired, the audience couldsubmit questions to the moderator and the moderator would choose the questions to be asked.
Informal Q&A
Regardless of the format chosen, you may consider allowing for an informal questions and answerssession with more limited time constraints.

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