LePage leads off candidate forums run by Cape Elizabeth High School students

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Students in the high school’s advanced placement U.S. government class will not only be hosting this year’s local candidate nights, but will also be moderating discussions with the three gubernatorial candidates.

The class of seniors will be setting up and leading discussions with candidates in forums open to juniors and seniors throughout the rest of September and in October.

“It’s a chance for the students to take what they learn in class and apply it to a real world situation,” teacher Ted Jordan said.

The first candidate to visit the high school will be Gov. Paul LePage on Monday, Sept. 22, at around 10 a.m. Jordan said his class has been preparing questions by researching issues surrounding education and the economy. He said LePage will be joined on stage by two student moderators.

Other students will distribute index cards so people can write questions of their own. The students will select relevant questions to bring up to the moderators. Jordan said the whole process is empowering for students.

“Students like the fact that they’re the ones running the show,” he said.

Jordan said he wasn’t able to arrange to have all three candidates appear on one day for a debate. Independent Elliot Cutler will visit the school on Oct. 6 and Democrat Michael Michaud will be there on Oct. 23.

Jordan said that regardless of how students feel about a particular candidate, they are expected to remain neutral during the event. He said this allows them to fully hear and understand each candidate.

“It’s important for students to see who these people are and to meet them first hand,” he said.

Jordan also said while the events are happening, the students’ job is to make sure others are being well-informed.

“We have no agenda,” Jordan said. “Our only agenda is to inform the public.”

Local candidate nights will be held in mid-October, a tradition Jordan’s classes have established over the last decade or more.

On Oct. 15 from 7 -9 p.m. at Town Hall, incumbent Democratic state Rep. Kimberly Monaghan-Derrig and Republican challenger Pauline Wilcox will take questions from a student moderator, followed by incumbent Democratic state Sen. Rebecca Millett and her challengers, Republican William DeSena and Green Independent Mark Diehl.

On Oct. 22, also from 7-9 p.m. at Town Hall, incumbent Town Councilor Kathy Ray and candidate Patricia Grennon will be followed by three School board candidates: incumbents Joanna Morrissey and Elizabeth Scifres, and challenger Barbara Powers.

The candidate nights are open to the public and will be broadcast live on public access television. Students will be taking calls from viewers during the events.

Jordan said having students host events like these makes them more informed citizens. He said it’s important for them to know about government, whether they’re old enough to vote or not.

“They’ll be better-informed voters, those that are old enough, than most people in Maine,” Jordan said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.