There was solid turnout of concerned voters on Wednesday morning for a candidate forum involving candidates running for State Representative and State Senate at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and AARP as well as others and was moderated by Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel and Keith Landry, anchor for My Fox Orlando 35.
The event was livened up a bit but not how many would assume. The format was different and ended up being a plus as it provided a more free-form flow of thoughts and comparisons. A question would be posed by the moderators and any candidate, of any district, of any party could signal interest in answering. Landry and Maxwell overall did make the 2.5 hour candidate forum interesting and moving along while giving everyone a fair opportunity to speak. This led to a nice conversation that really seemed to cover issues in a more interesting way than other forums. But one moderator would prove to overshadow the rest and rule number one of any forum is the moderator is not supposed to make the news.
For Mr. Maxwell, he just couldn’t help himself. Mr. Maxwell is no rookie at forums, even hosting the Sentinel/Fox Mayor’s debate earlier this year. But today, he was more off the reservation than before. At the Mayor’s debate, Mr. Maxwell chose to refrain from even agreeing with issues he had written columns about. But today, he decided to really hammer Representative Scott Plakon – on more than one occasion. Rep. Plakon, the only incumbent candidate to show up, may not have been well-received by the moderator or the room of voters based on boos he received throughout, but he really earned respect for actually attempting to answer questions – even some that were openly hostile.
At one point, Mr. Maxwell opened a question that was more like one of his columns. As Rep. Plakon responded along the lines of “I appreciate you framing your question the way you did,” the response was more catty than Catwoman in the latest Batman movie.
“Well, I appreciate the legislation you passed that made me ask that question” said Mr. Maxwell to a room of laughs and some applause. And there it was: the best one-liner of the day. Not by any candidate running for office, but from the moderator to a sitting state representative. Rep. Plakon still answered the question and never reacted to Maxwell’s quip. This exchange was as close as it got to a “debate” as opposed to a candidate forum.
I just wish Mr. Maxwell would take on Democratic Mayors like Buddy Dyer the way he took on Rep. Plakon today. That Orlando debate also needed some accountability on our office holder and Mr. Maxwell didn’t even dare push the mayor on any issue. If you’re going to be a mouthpiece for the community, consistency matters.
Stay tuned, we’ll see which Moderator Maxwell shows up next time.