GARNER — In a council race defined by mutual respect among three candidates for two seats, residents of Garner may not have much chance to see their choices talk through any potential philosophical differences.
As has been custom in recent years, neither the town nor the chamber of commerce will hold candidate forums for all candidates. The organization Garner Concerned Citizens United will have a candidate meet-and-greet, but that’s all that’s been planned.
“If you take an average citizen especially a new citizen, I don’t know how they’re going to make up their mind,” mayor Ronnie Williams said.
Incumbent Kathy Behringer and challenger Jeanette Hagwood have accepted invitations to the GCCU event, and GCCU chair Elmo Vance said incumbent Gra Singleton will also be invited to the Oct. 28 event. He said the event will consist of the candidates introducing themselves to the group in turn followed by a meet-and-greet.
Vance acknowledged the quiet nature of the election.
“This has been a very quiet election season here … Kathy, Gra, Jeannette, we all pretty much know them,” Vance said. “It’s not a formal forum, just a chance to meet the candidates and ask them about issues … The public is more than welcome to come.”
Behringer and Singleton each have served multiple terms on the council and represent known quantities for those familiar to Garner politics. Hagwood doesn’t lack their visibility, having been a prominent businesswoman, active Chamber of Commerce member, and member of the board of adjustment and Garner Volunteer and Rescue Fire Board. Hagwood doesn’t complain of the council’s performance and said she counts her opponents among her friends.
Behringer suggested a lack of urgency might contribute to the limited call for debate. With no prominent controversial issues or candidates – and a council that has seen little open disagreement – there hasn’t been a push to prod at the candidates’ stances.
“When the citizens are happy with the way the things are going and with how their money is spent, they tend to calm down and not worry as much,” Behringer said. “In this case I think all three of us are good candidates.”
The town, seeking to avoid any appearance of favoritism, not only doesn’t schedule forums but “would probably steer an event away from a town venue,” according to spokesman Rick Mercier.
The chamber also avoids politics where it can, particularly since candidates are often members.
“It’s not usually an aggressive race, it doesn’t usually get really heated,” said Denise Nowell, director of member services. “We are not a chamber that gets involved in a lot of governmental affairs.”
The GCCU event will start at 7 p.m. at Rand Street Christian Church. Vance said he hopes his organization can build on the concept and hold similar events, and not just for municipal elections, bringing candidates for state office to Garner citizens.
“We have to grow to that point. Hopefully we’ll be in position to have a larger one in the next election,” Vance said.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland