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Cook column: Shoptalk on forums, videos, voter guides

Mark your calendar for 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23. That’s when candidates for two key races will face off in Hedrick Little Theater on the Catawba College campus.
They don’t have the following of John McCain, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin or Joe Biden. But when it comes to local politics, these people are headliners.
They are candidates for Rowan County commissioner and the N.C. House District 77 seat.
In the commission race, participating candidates are Democrat Raymond Coltrain and Republicans Carl Ford and Jim Sides. The fourth person on the ballot, Democrat Laura Lyerly, has not responded.
In the House race, they are Democrat Lorene Coates and Republican Dr. Ada Fisher.
The Post is partnering with Catawba College and the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce once again to sponsor the forum, as we have for several election cycles.
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Questions: First, we need your questions.
If you have issues you’d like forum moderator Dr. Michael Bitzer to ask the candidates about, here’s how to get them to us:
– Email: editor@salisburypost.com.
– Fax: 704-639-0003
– Mail: Elizabeth Cook, Salisbury Post, P.O. Box 4639, Salisbury, N.C. 28145-4639.
– Online: Or you can post your questions on www.salisburypost.com at the end of this column.
As the questions come in, I will forward them to other members of the organizing committee so we’ll have a feel for the level of interest. Bitzer, an associate professor of political science and history, chooses the questions to ask.
He won’t be able to present all the questions that come in, but please send as many as are on your mind. You don’t have to identify yourself.
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What to expect: The forum itself will be split into two segments, with a 15-minute intermission:
– 6-7:15 p.m, state House candidates.
– 7:30-8:30 p.m., county commission candidates.
Buddy Poole and WSAT will be on the scene, broadcasting live, and the Post will have coverage, too.
But there’s nothing like being there, so we hope Hedrick will be full.
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Video interviews: We have been covering this election for months, of course. If you’d like to look at an archive of articles and editorials stories about the candidates, you’ll find them on the right side of our home page at www.salisburypost.com, under the Vote ’08 symbol. The sample ballot is also there.
You can view videos of some of the candidates on that site, too. Coltrain, Ford and Sides each came in last week for a few questions, and those unedited interviews are posted online. We hope to line up more interviews this week.
Farther down our home page, videos and stories from the Associated Press are available with a click.
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Printed voter guides: We have good news for people who plan to take advantage of early voting, which starts Oct. 16. The Post will publish an early voter’s guide on Oct. 15.
This first is a sign of how early voting has caught on. We’ve pushed this year to publish profiles of all the local races before early voting begins, and this guide will recap some of that information. It will also include a sample ballot.
A bigger voter’s guide will be in the Post on Nov. 3, the day before the general election.
The state has also issued a guide that covers statewide races. One was sent to every home last month. If you didn’t get one or misplaced it, the guide can be found at www.sboe.state.nc.us, under Resources and Programs. The Rowan County Board of Elections at 130 W. Innes St. also has a handful of copies.
While checking that out on the State Board of Elections Web site, I stumbled upon a new feature called My Election Information. I typed in my name, date of birth and county of residence, and it showed just what it says ó my voting information. That includes affiliation (unaffiliated), when I first registered (1978) and which elections I’ve cast ballots in since 2006 (all of them). It lists my precinct and gives the address of my polling place.
It does not ó and cannot, I hope ó show whom I voted for.
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One month to go: Here are a few more dates to remember:
– Oct. 7, Tuesday, the second presidential debate is scheduled, to be held at Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn.
– Oct. 10, this Friday, is the last day to register if you want to vote in the general election.
– Oct. 15, a Wednesday, the third presidential debate is slated at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
– Nov. 1, a Saturday, is the last day for early voting.
– Nov. 4 is Election Day.
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Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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