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Editor's Note: Candidates forum packed them in

Billionaires are dipping into their accounts to support their own campaigns. Jerry Brown is reinventing himself — again. Lawn signs are popping up in Crescent City, then bending to the incessant wind.

It’s still too chilly to mistake spring for summer, but the signs of election season are everywhere in California. Here in Del Norte, The Triplicate tried out yet another venue for a candidates forum, and if we can keep on busting into its busy schedule, we may have found a permanent home in the Crescent Elk Middle School auditorium.

About 300 people turned out for the forum a week ago, so it’s a good thing we had a bigger building.

Back in the spring of ’08, it got a little sweaty when a capacity crowd filled the Lighthouse Inn conference room for a county supervisors forum. That fall, we moved to Mary Peacock Elementary School for a couple of forums featuring City Council and Harbor Commission candidates. The school was roomier, but it wouldn’t have handled last week’s crowd.

The headline acts included four candidates for county district attorney and two candidates apiece for sheriff and District 3 supervisor. As moderator, it was my first time dealing with candidates for multiple offices in a single forum. This entailed different questions for different positions and a good deal of hopping around, while still rotating the order of responses to treat everyone fairly. The program looked complicated when I put it on paper, and sure enough at one point I got out of order when I directed a question that should have gone first to the sheriff to his challenger instead.

That and one slightly balky microphone were the only rough patches. One big advantage of using the auditorium is that this is where Lighthouse Repertory Theatre puts on its productions, and LRT’s sound man, John Degler, graciously agreed to mic up the candidates and handle the audio. With Silvia Ortega of the county doing the video production, the volunteer professionals really came through.

The eight candidates apparently enjoyed themselves enough to want more, because a couple of them felt the evening ended prematurely. Lawyers are used to giving closing arguments, and while there was an opportunity of opening statements, the forum concluded after three rounds of questions — no parting shots.

The format could change next time — each one of these has been a learning experience for me. And two of those DA candidates may be giving encore performances in the fall, because unless one of the four hopefuls garners more than 50 percent of the June 8 vote, the top two advance to the November general election.

Our reporting on the forum ran from last Friday through Tuesday. You’ll also be able to watch a video replay on cable Channel 4, with the schedule to be announced. Already, you can listen to an audio replay by clicking “online extras” at triplicate.

com and downloading it.

And the survey says …

Some of this year’s Del Norte candidates have employed Bob Berkowitz’ LifeStyles Research Company to poll local residents who voted in the 2008 primary. While results of the paid-for surveys are provided only to the appropriate campaigns, the poll included a couple of bonus questions, and Berkowitz is sharing those results with the public.

Both questions dealt with city government, and you should keep in mind that of the 240 survey participants, only 38 were city residents. All Del Norters seem to have an opinion, however, on what goes on at City Hall.

The first asked if the city is generally headed in the right direction, and only 39 percent of the city residents said it was, while 61 percent said it was not. Non-city residents were slightly more optimistic: 43.8 percent felt the city was headed in the right direction.

The second question asked which of the five City Council members respondents could not support. Eighty percent of city residents and 81 percent of non-city residents named Councilwoman Donna Westfall.

Westfall, however, is not on the ballot this year, unless there’s a recall attempt against her. That, of course, has been her specialty: Since her election in 2008, she has launched recall attempts against all four of her colleagues.

The survey was conducted March 28-April 7.

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