Join election chat with candidates

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

I am a political debate junkie.

Ever since I was a lanky teenager back in the late 80s, I would eagerly await the presidential debates.

I was an odd kid back then. I would choose sitting in front of our family television watching Ronald Reagan debate Walter Mondale or George Bush take on Michael Dukakis before I would go out to the mall with buddies.

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A good presidential debate to me was like the annual Auburn-Alabama game to my friends. A witty opening statement or a clever retort rivaled a winning touchdown pass or interception in my book.

I loved it when 73-year-old Reagan opened the 1984 debates with Walter Mondale when he said, “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

I cheered when vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen said of Dan Quayle’s remark comparing himself to John F. Kennedy, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

What could be any better than such verbal, civilized jousting?

I guess I should have known back then of my journalistic leanings. Even though I enjoyed a good back and forth between the candidates, my attention during most debates was on the questions and the moderator.

Every four years, I would shake my head when the debates were finished.

“Where did they come up with this stuff,” I always asked.

Even as a teen, I knew I could come up with better questions than the softballs that were being thrown to the candidates.

The moderators always seemed to be out of touch with the average everyday American.

I knew what questions most Americans wanted asked.

If only I had a chance to ask those hard-hitting questions.

I am sure many Americans have felt the same way in the past elections — even about this year’s Natchez mayoral race.

Well, for all those would-be journalists with hard-hitting questions, is offering a first-of-its-kind online discussion with this year’s mayoral candidates and supporters of the proposed hotel assessment.

Thanks to technology, online readers will have a chance to ask the questions they think should be asked of the candidates in a series of online chats.

It all starts Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. when Independent mayoral candidate Chick Graning will drop by The Natchez Democrat to answers questions submitted by our online readers.

On Thursday at 3:30 p.m., Sally Durkin from the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau will be at the computer screen responding to questions about the proposed $2 hotel tax that is also on the June 3rd ballot.

Then on Friday at 3:30 p.m., Democratic mayoral candidate Jake Middleton will answer questions online.

If you can’t be on the Web each afternoon, don’t fret. You still can get your questions answered. Submissions of questions will be accepted 24-hours in advance for each discussion.

Transcripts of each chat will also be kept online so online readers can see what the candidates had to say about the various issues posed by our online audience.

More information about the online discussions will be posted on the home page next week.

Who knows? Maybe a comment from this year’s discussions will rank as one of the more memorable moments in Natchez politics.

Drop by Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoon to find out.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or