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Meet the Candidates forum set for July 24
July 11, 2018

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With the Primary Election looming, voters will get an opportunity to meet some of the local candidates for office.

On Tuesday, July 24, the North Fort Myers Recreation Center, the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and Civic Association will hold candidate forum for the Lee County School Board and Commission.

A meet-and-greet will begin at 6 p.m. with the forum portion to run from 7-8:30 p.m.

The forum is planned as the first of two such events.

Al Giacalone, organizer, said he has already received 17 RSVPs from among 19 candidates, 15 of whom are in the school board races, which are on the Aug. 28 Primary ballot.

"Because there are so many school board candidates, there aren't enough slots in our time frame. We will look to expand that after the primary in September," Giacalone said.

Skip Mitchell will once again be the moderator as candidates from Districts 1, 4, 5 and 6 come together.

Many changes are expected with the new board since incumbent Steve Teuber is not seeking re-election in District 4 and incumbent Jane Kuckel isn't running in District 6. Four candidates are running in each district.

Incumbent Pamela LaRiviere has four opponents in District 5, while Mary Fischer has one in District 1.

Only the District 6 seat is at-large; Districts 1, 4 and 5 will be decided by registered voters in those districts.

School board races are non-partisan.

For the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, the District 2 incumbent, Cecil Pendergrass, a Republican, and opponent Bill Taylor, no party affiliation, are expected to speak.

The race will not appear on the ballot until November.

District 4 Commissioner Brian Hamman is unopposed meaning he has been re-elected. He is not expected to attend.

Giacalone said candidates will have their tables set up at 6 p.m. so voters can talk to the candidates. They have done away with the hallway meet-and-greets as new management as the rec center has told them to keep things in the room for safety reasons.

At 7 p.m. the forums are expected to begin and last until 8:30. With all the candidates, that should leave little more than three minutes per candidate for them to explain their platforms.

The Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office will be present to answer questions and to register people to vote.

"We won't have questions with the audience, but I will talk with Skip and see if they can talk about the major things on the ballot, such as the school sales tax," Giacalone said.

In past years, the forums attracted candidates and little more. Two years ago, huge crowds turned out for them, a trend Giacalone hopes to continue upward.

"People are realizing it's a better opportunity before they cast their ballot to get informed. That's what this is about," Giacalone said. "They're taking more of an interest. I'm always disappointed in voter turnout. I don't know what we can do to make that better."

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