The Democratic Women of Orange County (DWOC) hosted a “Date with the Candidates” speed dating event at the Chapel Hill Public Library Wednesday with many of the candidates running for municipal offices in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough.
The night began with the mayoral candidates from Chapel Hill and Carrboro introducing themselves and their platforms. The candidates were incumbent Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, as well as incumbent Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger and her challenger, Joshua Levenson.
The speed dating portion consisted of five large group circles that voters gathered in. In groups of three to four, the candidates moved from circle to circle, talking with participants about their platforms and answering questions. After every seven minutes, the candidates would switch to the next group, and the process would begin again.
Lisa Kaylie, vice president of DWOC, said this event was unlike other candidate forums because it allowed candidates and voters to have meaningful, intimate conversations.
“Our candidates have participated in a lot of forums and answered a lot of questionnaires, but we wanted to give them the opportunity to meet with voters directly and have small group discussion with them,” Kaylie said. “We thought that at a lot of the forums, general questions are answered, but voters have specific questions.”
Candidates initially dominated the conversation, trying to market themselves over their competition. However, by the time the last group went, some candidates were opening up their seven minutes by asking the participants if they had any questions while simultaneously addressing the audience’s inquiries.
Jessica Anderson, who is seeking re-election to the Chapel Hill Town Council, spent much of her time talking about her commitment to promoting affordability.
“It’s about having access to all sorts of resources," she said, addressing a question about the most important issue she wants to tackle. "If you can’t get places, if you don’t have access to transit, if you don’t have access to your health care and your grocery store, those are all affordability as well.”
Taking care of the environment and improving the transportation system were among the most heavily covered topics discussed by almost every candidate.
Renuka Soll, who is also running for Chapel Hill Town Council, highlighted the importance of caring for trees.
“I think we need to do transportation analysis," Soll said. "You need to look at the land and see what could be built on it because sometimes you see concept plans and there are things that are sensitive, and they put houses there — they try to get as much as they can, and then they try to fix it."
Kaylie said she hoped attendees would press the candidates on issues such as Hillsborough town growth, the necessity of transportation infrastructure and how to remain climate friendly in a time of development.
“The biggest topic is how we get people to vote. We really need people to get out and vote in our local election,” Kaylie said. “For me, I feel like municipal government is really what makes the most difference in our daily lives, and it gets neglected a lot, so I really hope that people come out and vote.”
Early voting has already begun in the county. Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday until Nov. 1, with polls closing an hour early on Halloween. They are also open on Sunday, Oct. 27 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Election Day is Nov. 5.
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