Candidates to be part of Geneseo forum

The Livingston County News and The Daily News are partnering with the SUNY Geneseo Center for Community and Geneseo Votes Coalition and to present a forum for candidates in the upcoming 2020 General Election.

The Tuesday forum will feature candidates for the 27th Congressional District race, and state races in the 133rd Assembly District and the 59th Senate District.

This year, with the advent of the COVID-19 virus, the event is going to be conducted virtually using Zoom video conferencing software and be livestreamed across multiple channels, including at the dailynewsonline.com and thelcn.com and YouTube.

“It was a health and safety decision,” Nicholas P. Palumbo, assistant dean for leadership and service at SUNY Geneseo, said of the change in venue. “It was just not smart from a public health perspective to bring a lot of people together in one place.”

Past forums – this is the fifth year The LCN and SUNY Geneseo have presented candidates to voters – have taken place in large lecture halls on campus.

“This new format offers the best access to the most people. We could have 1,000 people participate if they want,” Palumbo said.

The virtual format will still allow students and community members to interact by submitting questions to the candidates. Questions for the congressional candidates will be submitted in advance, while questions for the state candidates will be accepted during the event.

This year, the forum will last two hours and be structured into two sessions. Both sessions are expected to last an hour and be moderated by SUNY Geneseo Student Association President Kaitlyn Bertleff, with assistance from the Andrew Goodman Foundation Voting Ambassadors.

The first hour, scheduled from 7 to 8 p.m., will consist of a debate between the candidates for the 27th Congressional District.

Democrat Nate McMurray, who is also endorsed by the Working Families Party, and Libertarian Party candidate Duane Whitmer have confirmed their participation in the debate.

Incumbent Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, will not participate. Jacobs’ campaign cited the candidate’s full schedule of debates and meetings and said they were unable to fit this event into their schedule. Jacobs is cross-endorsed by the Conservative and Independence parties.

Questions for the debate will be collected ahead of time through a Google form, available online at https://tinyurl.com/yxbu7w7h. Questions should be submitted by Monday.

The questions will be curated by the Geneseo Votes Coalition, which consists of Democrats, Republicans, and on-campus nonpartisan civic engagement organizations.

For the debate, each candidate will have two minutes for opening statements, two minutes for responses, one minute for rebuttals, and two minutes for closing statements.

The second hour, expected from 8 to 9 p.m., will consist of a moderated forum with state Senate and state Assembly candidates.

Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes, R-Caledonia, the incumbent for the 133rd District Assembly seat, and challenger ChaRon Sattler-Leblanc, running on the Democrat and Working Families Party lines, have said they will participate.

On the state Senate side, challenger Jason Klimec, a Democrat, has accepted the invitation to participate. Incumbent state Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, is not expected to participate.

Questions for this part of the forum will be collected during an intermission following the debate. Questions, which will be approved by the Geneseo Votes Coalition, will be fielded live by the candidates.

Candidates will be allowed two minutes for responses. The forum will also allow candidates to make an opening statement of up to two minutes, and later a two-minute closing statement.

Those interested in attending the event should pre-register at https://tinyurl.com/y2vw88rs.

For event details, go to https://tinyurl.com/yxv28tmc. For questions about the event, call (585) 245-6493.

This is the fifth consecutive election cycle that the Livingston County News has teamed with SUNY Geneseo organizations to host a forum for candidates. Past forums have included races at all levels from village board to congress.

“It has been challenging to wrestle with the emotional part this year. Community members have come to these forums in the past who may not otherwise come to campus,” Palumbo said.”They looked forward for the chance to engage with the candidates.”

Palumbo worked with the college’s educational specialists and technical teams to create the virtual forum.

“We wanted to continue,” Palumbo said. “We just had to pivot and figure how we could best make sure to continue the forums.”

Palumbo said it is important for students and community members to be able to participate as the forums help bring their different perspectives together.

The general election is Nov. 3. Early voting in the four-county GLOW region gets underway Oct. 24 through local Board of Elections offices.

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