Audience responses to the recent “Use Your Voice” political forum at City Hall shows guests favoring Casey Lucius, who is running for Congress, as well as expressing concerns about the lack of jobs in San Benito County. BenitoLink and the San Benito County Farm Bureau co-hosted their first political forum of the season on May 12. It was an event designed to give the public a chance to interact with the candidates running for seats in the House of Representatives, State Assembly, and for District 1 county supervisor. Measure P, the proposed half-cent sales tax to fund local transportation projects, was also a topic. 

Candidates were each posed a number of questions detailing their thoughts on a range of county issues including Measure P, immigration reform, county growth, water and education.

Jimmy Panetta and Barbara Honegger were unable to attend the forum. Panetta had a scheduling conflict and Honegger canceled at the last minute due to a death in family. They are not included in the infographics in this report.

Directly after the forum, a brief survey was handed out to attendees. Approximately 60 people attended the event and about 20 people took the time to answer a survey questions that were made available at the event. The questions were designed to evaluate how well the candidates communicated with the audience. They also asked for the audience’s response to the county issues discussed that evening.

Fifty-five percent of respondents answered that they had found congressional candidate Casey Lucius to be the most genuine speaker that evening, while 46 percent of voters thought Lucius gave the most direct answers to the questions about policy, politics, and plans of action.  When asked which candidate failed to adequately answer the questions posed to them, 37 percent filled in the name of State Assembly candidate Georgia Acosta. The audience also  filled in the names of other candidates who were present that night, in percentages that are detailed in the infographics. The names of Assembly candidate John Nevill  and Congressional candidate Jack Digby did not receive any votes on the returned surveys. Therefore, they have not been included in the informational graphics.

Other survey questions revealed a level of polarization among people in attendance. Seventy-one percent of viewers wrote that they would vote yes for Measure P. Eighty-six percent were not confident that the high school bond funds were being spent appropriately.  Eighty percent thought special training for elected officials would be a good idea (though what type of training had not been specified). One hundred percent of those surveyed thought that citizen involvement is a part of the solution to county issues. Responses to other questions were a bit more divided, with 55 percent of guests saying they had no confidence in San Benito County elected officials, and 65 percent agreeing that increased taxes is not the solution to county woes.

Opinions on county affairs were across the board; the question required voters to circle two of the issues listed on the survey to show which were their biggest concerns for the county. The most-circled issues were the lack of good jobs available in the region and perceived unplanned growth, which were tied for “top of mind” concerns. Transportation proved another point of distress among voters, followed closely by what was described in the survey as “incompetence of leaders,” problems with the schools, and a “bad business climate.” Scattered votes were cast for “no sense of community,” the “old families network,” growth in general and “lack of vision.” None of the survey participants selected the categories “power held by too few” or “not inclusive to other social and cultural groups.”

How do your opinions fit in with those of the answering group who attended the forum?  Who will best represent you in your district?  For citizens of San Benito County, political forums are an opportunity to better understand the candidates and the measures we will be asked to vote for. Additional forums are slated to be held later this fall prior to the general election in November. Check in with BenitoLink for more information about upcoming events.