Interest in this year’s City Council and mayoral races continues to run high.
After a record number of people voted in the Sept. 12 primary, narrowing a crowded field of candidates to two in each of the council’s five wards and two in the mayoral race, additional forums have been scheduled in advance of the Nov. 7 general election.
The Billings Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Billings Cultural Partners, is sponsoring a free forum for all candidates this Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Alberta Bair Theater. Refreshments will be served before and after the program.
Those planning to attend are asked to register by going to the chamber website. You can also see grades assigned to each candidate, based on questionnaires the chamber asked them to fill out, by going here.
Mayoral candidates Bill Cole and Jeff Essmann are also scheduled to appear at the Oct. 4 Town and Gown gathering in Prescott Hall at Rocky Mountain College. The evening will begin with a social and reception at 6, dinner at 6:30 and the mayoral program at 7:15.
The candidates have been asked to lay out their vision for how they would lead the city into the future. They will each speak for about 15 minutes and then field questions from the audience.
The cost is $25 per person, and reservations must be made by Sept. 28.
Meanwhile, a forum for City Council candidates, held earlier this month, is going to be broadcast several times on Community Channel 7 TV, starting today. The forum was sponsored by the Yellowstone Democratic Club on Sept. 19 and drew eight of the 10 council candidates.
The forum was moderated by former Billings Mayor Chuck Tooley. All candidates were given the same questions and were allowed the same amount of time to respond to them.
The forum will be shown on Channel 7 at 10:30 a.m. today; 7:30 p.m. on Sunday; 6 p.m. on Wednesday; 7 a.m. on Thursday; and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30.
In a press release, Paul Van Tricht, president of the Yellowstone Democratic Club, said: “The primary election for the city of Billings saw record voter turnout because of the excellent coverage of the election provided by Channel 7 and other media. The video of the forum allows voters to compare and judge the candidates for the City Council running in their ward. In the general election we will be electing the people who will manage the city which provides the services that we daily rely upon.”
The press release also pointed out that the Yellowstone Democratic Club is not the Yellowstone County Democratic Central Committee. It is, the release said, “a simple social club of Democrats and Progressives from the entire Yellowstone Basin from Gardiner to the Missouri River.”
Van Tricht said the club will not be endorsing any candidates in the city elections and will not be giving any campaign contributions or other direct support to any candidate.
The general election is on Nov. 7 and will be, like the primary, a mail-only election.