As the Aug. 14 primary approaches, three upcoming Key West events feature candidates squaring off in the public eye.
The political action includes Hometown PAC's third event of the 2012 campaign season, scheduled for 5 p.m. tonight at the Conch Flyer restaurant at Key West International Airport.
Only candidates facing opposition were invited to this, the first of two Hometown election forums set for July.
Tonight's event isn't the typical meet-and-greet, but rather a forum where candidates will have to think on their feet while fielding questions from community members, organizers said.
"We don't have opening or closing statements," said Todd German, who will emcee the event. "We sit them down and they start getting questions."
Admission is free, and the PAC will offer free appetizers and a cash bar.
Tonight, a panel of local pundits will question the Republican candidates vying for a place on the ballot in the Nov. 6 general election for Mosquito Control District 1 and Clerk of Court; the Democrats seeking the nomination for State Attorney; and one of the two nonpartisan School Board contests in which two newcomers want to unseat 20-year incumbent Andy Griffiths.
"I don't approach this as 'stump the candidate,'" said Ed Scales, a local attorney and U.S. 1 radio host who is on the panel, along with U.S.1 newsman Ezra Marcus and Richard Grusin, a local stage actor and radio personality.
"I want to ask probing questions to help me and audience members differentiate between the candidates," said Scales. "We get to ask a question and, if we want to, we can ask a follow-up to that candidate. I won't ask the same question to more than one candidate - that's one of the ground rules."
Tonight's event starts with the two Republicans seeking the nomination for the Mosquito Control District 1 seat: Jill Cranney-Gage and Maggie Gutierrez.
Next in the line-up is the Republican primary race for Clerk of Court, which has four candidates: Matt Gardi, Amy Heavilin, Stuart Kessler and Kevin Madok.
Then, incumbent State Attorney Dennis Ward and challenger Catherine Vogel, the two state attorney candidates vying for the Democratic side of the Nov. 6 ballot, will face off at the Conch Flyer.
The pair traded some pointed barbs recently at an event hosted at Finnegan's Wake bar, with the 2009 school district embezzlement case providing some heated fodder.
Vogel represented former Superintendent Randy Acevedo at trial, after which he got three years' probation, while Ward's office rode high on the case that sent the schools chief's wife, Monique Acevedo to state prison for eight years.
The winner of the Aug. 14 primary will face in the general election former State Attorney Mark Kohl, the sole Republican in the race.
The final segment tonight features one of the two School Board races set for Aug. 14.
Since these races are nonpartisan, the Aug. 14 contest could determine the winner.
If one of the District 2 candidates, Griffiths, Howard Hubbard or Yvette Mira-Talbott, takes more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, her or she wins the seat.
If tno one garners more than hald the votes, a runoff will be held Nov. 6.
Hometown PAC is a nonpartisan group that doesn't endorse candidates, but has hosted several candidate forums between 2006 and 2011. Membership is $20 a year for an individual; $30 for a family.
For more information, visit www.hometownkeywest.com.
Hometown PAC will host another candidate forum on July 30 that will feature the rest of the races on the Aug. 14 ballot, including candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the state senate.
The Key West Chamber of Commerce will host a political forum at 6 p.m. July 31 at the Marriott Beachside Resort. The event is open to the public. To RSVP, call 305-294-2587.
Free parking will be available for tonight's event after 5 p.m. in the employee parking lot on the second level of the airport.