Forum next week for county race (UPDATED)

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, January 6, 2011

The candidates vying for Freeborn County’s 5th District commissioner seat will get their chance to sound off on the issues before the special primary election.

And the public gets to submit their own questions.

The Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee will host a public forum for the candidates at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12 in the Lecture Hall at Riverland Community College’s Albert Lea campus.

The debate will be moderated by Albert Lea Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom and KIMT weekend anchor and reporter Cole Mathisen. The forum will be broadcast live on KATE 1450 AM and KQAQ 970 AM.

The candidates include Chad T. Hayson, Marilyn A. Roche, Hugh O’Byrne, Tony Pestorious, Curtis Smith, Mike Lee and Doug Conn.

According to Randy Kehr, executive director of the Chamber, all seven candidates have been invited to participate in the event. As of press time, O’Byrne, Pestorious, Smith, Lee, Roche and Conn had agreed to participate.

“The format will be similar to previous events,” Kehr said.

The order each candidate will speak will be determined by a blind draw prior to the forum. Each candidate will be given up to two minutes to make an opening statement.

Following that, questions from the audience will be submitted in writing to the moderators, who will then ask the questions to all candidates. Each candidate will have up to one minute to answer each question.

Questions will be addressed to candidates on a rotating basis and the moderators will reserve the right to eliminate duplicate questions or not ask questions of a personal nature.

At the end of the forum, each candidate will have two minutes to make a closing statement.

The field of seven will be narrowed to two in a special primary election on Jan. 18, followed by a special general election on March 15.

The 5th District consists of Pickerel Lake Township plus Albert Lea’s 3rd and 6th wards.

Three of the current candidates, Smith, Lee and Pestorious, ran for the position in 2008.

Former commissioner Linda Tuttle defeated Lee on a vote of 1,752 to 1,548, to win the seat.

The seat of District 5 commissioner was vacated Aug. 1 when Tuttle resigned after being accused of using her company, Albert Lea Abstract Co., to divert money into her own accounts to pursue an alleged gambling addiction. She was scheduled to appear in Freeborn County District Court on Nov. 12 but the hearing was canceled and a potential plea agreement is on the table.

Tuttle is facing 12 counts of felony theft by swindle, along with one count of racketeering.