LWV scraps forums, says GOP refuses to cooperate

Ozaukee League of Women Voters objects to claims by incumbents that group is a partisan organization
Ozaukee Press staff

The League of Women Voters of Ozaukee County announced Tuesday it won’t hold candidate forums for the fall election because they could not reach an agreement with the incumbent state representatives.

“The candidates have been unwilling to accept the way we do things,” League President Barbara Hunt said. “We really tried. We couldn’t make it work, and that’s really unfortunate.”

Hunt said the candidates are Republican incumbents Jim Ott of Mequon, who represents District 23, Dan Knodl of Germantown, District 24, and Rob Brooks of Saukville, District 60.

They sought to change the format of the debates, Hunt said, and indicated they don’t consider the League a nonpartisan group, something she called “disturbing.” 

The League goes out of its way to ensure fairness in its debates, and it doesn’t endorse candidates, Louise Mollinger, chairman of the League’s Voter Services Committee, said

It does take sides on issues, although these are not reflected in the forums, she added. Only audience questions are asked at the debates.

Their Democratic challengers — Liz Sumner of Fox Point, Emily Siegrist of River Hills and Chris Rahlf of Cedarburg, respectively — “were on board from day one,” Hunt said.  “All the women were happy to do whatever we wanted to do.”

The League will not hold events that feature only one candidate, she said, because of the issue of fairness if only one side is presented.

Mollinger said the League wanted to hold forums in each district that would feature the two candidates for that Assembly seat.

The three candidates instead wanted to hold one forum with all six candidates, she said.

“We thought that’s better than no forum at all,” Mollinger said. “But the demands kept coming. It was fairly clear there would be no end to this. It just got to be impossible.”

The demands included finding someone else to moderate the forum, she said, and changes in the way the League would sort the questions and how they would ask them.

The League has traditionally sponsored and moderated forums, seeking questions from the audience and asking the same questions to all the candidates, Mollinger said. 

The questions are sorted into categories, with similar questions combined into one, she said. The League eliminates questions that are personal attacks and weeds out questions that are not relevant to the position being sought — removing questions on national issues that won’t be dealt with by the state, for example.

Candidates are given the same amount of time to answer questions and for opening and closing statements, she said, and candidates alternate answering questions first. 

The forums are important, Mollinger said, adding the League had hoped to live stream the events and record them so voters who couldn’t attend could watch at their convenience.

“We’re not aware where else the two candidates for these positions are going to stand side by side in front of their constituents and in their district, answering the same questions,” she said. “The moderator is there to keep things civil.

“When efforts to educate voters are blocked, it doesn’t sit well with the League of Women Voters.”

Hunt said the Ozaukee County chapter of the League is the only one in the state that has had this problem this year.

“It was disappointing,” she said. “It was very disturbing.”

Calls to the three legislators’ offices Tuesday were not returned before deadline.


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login