Labor Day marks the traditional kickoff to the political season. Campaigns for various offices and seats on the ballot in this year’s municipal election have been on a low boil since the May primaries.
But with a little more than two months to go before Election Day (Nov. 6), it’s time to turn up the heat.
The marquee race this year is, of course, for mayor of Terre Haute. The Democrat, Kevin Burke, seeks re-election to a second term. His Republican challenger is Duke Bennett, who ran unsuccessfully against Burke four years ago.
Burke’s primary victory was the first for a Democratic mayoral incumbent since the late Pete Chalos defeated a field of challengers in the spring of 1991. Despite a sometimes heated campaign, Burke easily claimed renomination.
Republican Bennett is a more intriguing candidate than those Burke faced in the spring. But Republicans rarely run well in Terre Haute municipal elections. From a voter’s perspective, however, Bennett’s presence makes this a more compelling election than it otherwise might be. He is smart, articulate, credible, qualified for the job, and able to engage in a meaningful, substantive discussion about the city’s future and what local government’s role in that future should be.
It will be much easier for voters to understand and follow the debate this fall than it was in the spring. The primary free-for-all sometimes clouded more issues than it cleared up. With only two candidates for mayor this fall, the positions and political philosophies of the candidates should be less difficult to discern.
The Tribune-Star will be an involved observer of the political campaigns this fall. We will co-sponsor, with the League of Women Voters of Vigo County, a debate on Oct. 2 between Burke and Bennett, and we also plan to conduct editorial board sessions with each candidate before making our own endorsement in late October.
The format of the Oct. 2 debate should be more appealing to potential voters and observers because candidates will have more opportunity to challenge each other’s views and offer rebuttals. It should be great political theater, and hopefully voters will feel enlightened as well
In addition to our traditional print coverage of the debate, we also plan to produce a video of the entire debate that will be viewable from our Web site a short time after the debate ends. That way, those who are not able to attend can still view the event at their convenience.
We are also giving serious consideration to creating a Web video of our editorial board’s interview of each candidate.
Also in the planning stage is a forum for candidates in City Council races. We’re still working on a format for that forum.
More information will be passed along to readers as it becomes available. We hope all of you will be tuning in to this important election.