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Cook: Send questions for candidates

Guess which of the congressional districts now snaking through Rowan County contains the most Rowan voters?
It’s the 8th District, represented by Larry Kissell.
Guess which of our members of Congress is not participating in a local candidate forum so far?
You probably figured this out: Larry Kissell.
Though the 8th District now means a lot to Rowan County, in a 12-county district with nearly half a million voters, Rowan may not mean as much to the 8th District. Here’s the breakdown of Rowan’s registered voters, by congressional district:
• 5th District, now represented by Republican Virginia Foxx: 22,764 voters
• 8th District, Democrat Larry Kissell, 42,259 voters
• 12th District, Democrat Mel Watt, 26,968 voters
This is a switch. Before the last redistricting, Rowan was divided between the 12th and 6th districts, represented by Watt and longtime Republican Congressman Howard Coble. Now that Rowan is carved up into three districts, whatever political clout the county might have in Congress has been marginalized.
None of Rowan was in the 8th District in 2008. So now Kissell, from Biscoe in Montgomery County, finds himself seeking re-election from some 42,000 Rowan voters who never saw his name on a ballot before.
Cabarrus County is almost completely in Kissell’s district, with 103,279 voters in the 8th and 12,686 in the 12th.
Speaking of candidate forums, mark these two on your calendar and start thinking of good questions to share with us:
• Tuesday, Oct. 9: Rowan County Board of Commissioners and Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education
• Wednesday, Oct. 10: 5th and 12th congressional districts and 77th N.C. House District
The Post is partnering with Catawba College and the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce to put on the forums. Our role is to get the word out and ask readers to submit questions for the candidates. Please send them in by Oct. 8:
• Email to editor@salisburypost.com
• Mail to Editor, Salisbury Post, P.O. Box 4639, Salisbury, NC 28145.
• Or call me at 704-797-4244.
The forums will feature moderator Dr. Michael Bitzer, chairman of the Department of History and Politics at Catawba College and fast rising as a political expert in North Carolina and beyond. I forward readers’ questions to Bitzer and other members of the forum planning committee, and Bitzer makes the final selection.
A footnote: Our planning committee hoped to include the 8th District congressional race in the Salisbury forums, but Kissell could not attend.
He will, however, participate in a debate the AARP is hosting with Wingate University on Monday. Kissell will face his Republican opponent, Richard Hudson, who was district director for Robin Hayes when Hayes represented the 8th District.
It’s an afternoon debate, 2-3 p.m. at the George A. Batte Jr. Fine Arts Center on the Wingate campus. (That’s 68 miles from Salisbury but in the heart of Kissell’s district.) The debate is free and open to the public.
We heard a lot last week about the 47 percent, as described by Mitt Romney in secretly taped comments. But the number that caught my attention late in the week was 39 percent. According to Gallup, that’s the percentage of voters who say they are paying close attention to political news this election year.
This is down from 43 percent in September 2008.
Following political news has become more difficult because people don’t know which sources to trust. According to Gallup, 60 percent of Americans polled say they “have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” – a new high in distrust of the media.
Bloggers and pundits will tout this ammunition against the mainstream media, but they better check their backs. An AP-National Constitution Center poll found that “online news media and independent or citizen media have replaced Congress as the least trusted of all American institutions, earning high confidence marks from just 10 percent of those polled.”
This is a distrustful age. If you don’t believe the media or the bloggers will give you the straight story, that’s all the more reason to go to forums and hear the candidates yourself. Then you just have to figure out whether you can trust what the politicians say.
Problem solved?Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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