With two candidates going head to head for mayor and seven candidates vying for four seats on the Jim Thorpe Borough Council, what's needed is a Candidate's Debate – a chance for the residents of the borough to ask questions, better understand, and in November, cast a knowledgeable vote.
That's the thinking of the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce who has organized a Candidate's Debate for the major contested offices. It will be held at the Mauch Chunk Opera House on Wednesday, Sept. 30 with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the program beginning at 7:30 p.m. The program is planned to run for two hours and be followed by an opportunity for refreshments and informal discussions with the candidates.
The race for mayor is between Democrat Jeremy Melber and Republican Michael J. Sofranko. The Jim Thorpe Borough Council has four seats open. On the ballot for those seats are Democrats: Gregory Strubinger, Justin Yaich, and Donald A. Reese; and Republicans: Dan J. Rimsky, Ammon D. Hontz, and Joanne Klitsch. Kyle J. Sheckler won endorsements from both parties and will appear in both the Democrat and Republican rows on the ballot. Both the mayor and the borough council seats are for a four-year term.
The debate is being organized by Dan Hugos, president of the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce.
"Several years ago, we had a candidate's debate," Hugos explained. "Although it was held on a short notice, it was well attended.
"This year we expect a really good turnout with the advanced notice, plus we will have a meet and greet afterwards," he said.
"This year we have some important issues and many people running. This would be valuable and interesting to people in the town."
The format of the debate will have Hugos acting as moderators with all the candidates on the opera house stage. Before the debate begins, members of the audience will be invited to write questions on a form and place them into a box.
Hugos will begin the program asking three questions prepared by the chamber. He mentioned for example that they may involve issues such as economic development, traffic and drainage. Following the chamber's questions, the questions submitted by the audience will be randomly selected.
For all questions, Hugos plans to first ask the candidate most associated with the issue and then address the question to a second and perhaps a third randomly selected candidate.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Hugos said. "It will be not only informative, but it will be fun.
"It is an opportunity for reasonable questions," he continued. "Not to put people on the spot, but to allow candidates an opportunity to answer questions of concern to people.
"It gives people a chance to come to a central place and hear and meet the candidates and after the events to shake hands, sip coffee and talk," added Hugos.
"Some of the problems may be more difficult than we think they are, so we would like to know," he said. "Then a discussion can ensue and we can get a few things done."