Story last updated at 11:49 a.m. Friday, August 2, 2002

Debate offers voters chance to be informed
If the engine of democracy is best fueled by an enlightened electorate, Homer-area voters have an opportunity to gas up the tanks tonight.

Residents wishing for an up-close look at the people who want to represent them in Juneau will likely not have a better chance to get one as the community's only truly public candidate forum takes center stage tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Homer City Hall in city council chambers.

Candidates for the House District 35 seat -- incumbent Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, and challenger Paul Seaton, also a Homer Republican -- will outline the differences between them in an effort to persuade voters that each is the better candidate for the job. Both men are longtime Homer residents with years of involvement in the commercial fishing industry.

Since they are the only candidates for the seat, the winner of the Aug. 27 primary will become the voice of Homer in the state House. It is essential, therefore, that voters become informed as best they can in advance of the primary. Tonight's debate, which will feature questions from a four-person panel comprised of area media representatives, will cover a wide range of topics.

The media panel will take the spotlight for the first hour of the forum. The second hour will be devoted first to a question-and-answer session between the candidates, then to questions from the audience.

The debate will also afford voters the opportunity to meet their new senator, Alan Austerman, a Kodiak Republican. The recently completed redistricting of state voting districts added Homer to Austerman's Senate District R. He is running unopposed for a four-year term, so it is important for voters to find out what makes him tick and let him know what their priorities are for the upcoming legislative session.

Admission is free, so there's nothing standing in the way of voters airing their concerns and getting their questions answered. Residents desiring to hear tonight's debate but who are unable to attend can tune their radios to either KBBI AM 890 or K-WAVE FM 105 and hear a live broadcast of the proceedings.

Whether voters attend in person or tune in on the radio, tonight's public forum is sure to provide them with all the fodder they need to make an informed decision at the polls next month. That's good news for everyone. With the multitude of complicated and pressing issues facing state lawmakers and residents alike next year, making a careful and knowledgeable choice is more important than ever.