The nervous clicking of a ball point pen could be heard over the gentle murmur of the incoming crowd as board of trustee candidates Paul Matthews, Mic Armon and Fritz Wiedenhoff prepared themselves for the coming battle.
The three men studiously jotted down notes and avoided making eye contact as the other candidates began to file into their seats.
The chairs and bodies belonging to opponents hoping to win one of three open positions on the board shifted uncomfortably away from one another. Faces remained humorless, as the candidates seemed to try to focus on the messages they hoped to deliver to the waiting crowd whose banal chatter began to grow louder as the room filled.
Within a few minutes would begin a special forum designed to allow voters to get acquainted with eight of the 10 people that will be on the ballot come Nov. 6.
ASNIC organized the two-hour event, which was hosted by student Senator Benaiah Cheevers and divided into two parts.
The first portion consisted of the candidates answering pre-selected questions from a panel consisting of three campus representatives. Cheevers represented students; Erin Norvell, Employment and Training Coordinator, represented the college’s staff; and Philosophy instructor Pat Lippert represented faculty.
The candidates had been allowed to review the questions before the forum took place and had been permitted to select a minimum of one, and a maximum of four, to answer.
Confusion seemed to interrupt at the end of the segment when Cheevers had begun to ask a question and candidate Ron Nilson raised his hand to interject.
“You gave me a choice of questions prior, and the question I write my name along side was ‘what do you see as a major challenge,’” Nilson said. “You know this is the first time in an educational institution I beg for someone to ask me for a question.”
Nilson was allowed to answer his own question, and the problem was later addressed directly.
“Some candidates selected four, and some selected less, and that’s why there was somehow a little shifting in some of the questions,” Vice President for Communications and Marketing Mark Browning said.
Questions from the audience dominated the second half.
Unlike the previous section where candidates could pick and choose, all were required to answer every given question.
Audience questions ranged from an assortment of topics, from the effect of the Luna Laws to asking candidates how many times they had visited campus before they decided to run for trustee.
With partisanship already playing out to be a hot-button issue this election season, incumbent trustee Judith Meyer drew big laughs from the audience when the subject came up in a question, and she made a pun out of Browning, saying which order the candidates go when giving their answer.
“So you’ve already made it partisan by starting on the left, Mark?” Meyer teased.
Meyer, who has received endorsement from local Democrats, has repeatedly stated that she feels political affiliation should have no place in a trustee election.
Her opponent, Matthews, who has been endorsed by the Reagan Republicans, said he couldn’t disagree more.
“In my answers in my questions today, I’ve tried to give you as much as I can, and give you a little bit of a look into my heart. Maybe that’s overblown, but my background, my thoughts, my beliefs, and, yeah, a part of that is my political world view,” Matthews said.
If Meyer and Matthews stressed their differences in their answers, Armon the other incumbent of the race stressed the fact that he would not be given the opportunity to do the same, due to the absence of his own rival.
“I only regret that my opponent wasn’t here. It’s very difficult to make a decision when you only hear from one candidate,” said Armon, who attempted to point out his opponent Todd Banducci’s absence as a sign of his lack of commitment.
Banducci and another candidate named Jim Ruch were the only two unable to attend the forum.