Merlene Davis: Forum questions should help candidates focus on our needs

Sometimes the Kentucky candidates who are vying for elective offices on the federal level seem to think I am overcome with worry about President Obama's "war on coal," or about losing my right to walk around Walmart with an AR-15.

And if not those two pressing issues, they seem to think I lose sleep at night about the Affordable Care Act rim-racking hospital budgets.

While highly publicized, those issues aren't what should keep us on our knees at night.

With all due respect to those who have lost jobs in the declining coal industry, there are millions of other Americans who are unemployed, under-employed or simply struggling, whose plights the candidates haven't addressed sufficiently. Those people are losing their homes, cars, and any future they had planned for their children because their savings accounts and hope have dried up.

There also are families who have been devastated when loved ones have been felled by bullets from legal or illegal guns that are so accessible. What do the candidates propose to ease their grief?

When fear and gun rights allow ordinary citizens and the police to become judges, juries and executioners, someone ought to be talking about that. Where is that outrage?

And, Lord have mercy, please let someone stand up and say Obamacare has lifted the burden of medical uncertainty and financial ruin from the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians who had been held hostage by the insurance industry.

Can we hear something like that slip from the lips of these candidates?

Well, The Rev. Clark Williams told me we would if we attend the final candidates forum presented this year by Operation Turnout, a non-partisan, grassroots, social justice organization that wants the needs and concerns of the under-represented, poor, or minority voters to be heard. Williams was a founder of the group in 2010.

The group's 2014 Truth Campaign Forum Series will end with the two candidates seeking the 6th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives — Rep. Andy Barr and Elisabeth Jensen. U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes cancelled on Saturday. Incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell has not confirmed.

When asked if he hoped McConnell would show up, Williams said, "Hope is a strong word. He should be expected to show up. I was told on Thursday that I would have a definitive answer by Friday but I don't have an answer."

Unlike other debates and forums, Williams said this one on Oct. 21 at Shiloh Baptist Church, 237 East 5th Street will drill down to the issues that impact the under-served, especially those in Lexington's East End community where unemployment is at 20 percent.

"That is our biggest distinction by design," he said. "Obviously, I'm biased."

He said the questions will center on raising the minimum wage, the stability of social security, and perfecting but not eliminating ACA.

The questions, which will be generated by the moderators, by members of Operation Turnout and by the audience, will be seeking solutions and not just yes or no, up or down responses, he said.

"Whether (the candidates) give solution-based answers is up to them," Williams said. "But you need to come seeking solutions and noting if you actually heard one. There will be no softball questions."

In addition to the candidates for federal offices, Williams said the four candidates for the two seats on the Fayette County Public Schools board have also agreed to attend. Second district incumbent Doug Barnett and his opponent Roger Cleveland, along with 4th District incumbent Amanda Ferguson and her opponent Natasha Murray will open the forum with their stances on equity issues in our schools.

This is a great chance to be better informed about the candidates who are courting our votes.

No matter how many TV commercials would have you believe otherwise, this mid-term election should be about the needs of the voters and not the position of political parties.

I have lived through many years of one party ruling both houses of Congress and I have been through years of gridlock when opposing parties ruled each house.

The operative words are "lived through."

Americans will continue to stand tall no matter who wins and if we don't like the way our representatives behave, we can vote for changes in two years.

It would just be nice for Kentuckians to progress at the same rate as residents of other states. It would be nice to have better jobs, a better educational system, and better health care, just like other states.

The only way to get that is to vote for the candidates who can deliver what we want.