More than 50 candidates came to the Trinkle Center to meet the public Tuesday night during the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Plant City Candidate Forum.
Hundreds flocked to the Trinkle Center Tuesday evening to take part in the Candidate Forum, hosted by the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce.
More than 50 candidates were on site to mingle with the attendees, discuss their stances and get to know
their potential constituents before they went on stage and discussed their plans for office in a two-minute speech.
The candidates had one hour prior to the speeches to take photos, hand out signs and convince the citizens in attendance to give them their vote in the upcoming election. The hall was packed and many attendees carried around a blank straw ballot.
Hunter Frost, an intern for Ross Spano and a Student Government Association treasurer for Brandon, said he was able to go around the room and meet every single person there that evening.
“It seems like everyone was able to get to meet the candidates on a personal level and I know Ross was able to really get to have meaningful conversations with those that stopped by his booth,” Frost said. “This was a great way for people to meet these candidates in a professional and still personal way.”
Several attendees spoke to the candidates and then removed themselves to an empty table where they began to slowly fill out the intricate ballot sheet. Two boxes, one blue with white stars and one red with
white stripes, were sitting near the entrance to the sitting area in front of the stage. As people finished their meet-and-greet they deposited their completed ballots in one of the boxes before taking a seat for the upcoming two-hour information session.
Most candidates focused on their proposed policies and strategies if elected, however, a select few spent the opportunity talking about why their opponent(s) was a bad fit for the role. A few in the audience brought pen and pad to take notes during the event while others came decked out in merchandise for their preferred candidate.
This was the first time the Chamber has hosted a political forum of this size in Plant City and Chamber President Christine Miller said it will undoubtedly be the first of many to come. Birthed out of the efforts of the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Committee, the event was created to help citizens have the opportunity to be as informed as possible when they step into the voting booth this November.
Jay Hollenkamp, a resident of Plant City, arrived nearly as soon as the doors were open Tuesday night. He
spent the evening talking to candidates, getting to know their stances and stayed through the entirety of the event.
“I think it’s paramount to take the time to make a decision for yourself,” Hollenkamp said. “A lot of the times even opinions you might trust — for instance, based on an endorsement — will often align with what you otherwise might choose on your own. Nonetheless, I think it’s so helpful to take the time to meet the candidates and see the little nuances, to get to meet them and engage in the system. Ultimately, not only do I think your vote will be more representative of your true interests, but there’s also a higher likelihood people will get involved and spend more time paying attention to what’s going on in their area.”
Hollenkamp said he believed the event was a “home run” for the Chamber and that they put on a “pretty close to flawless performance.”
He also took the opportunity to participate in the straw poll. He said as a registered Independent, he never has the opportunity to vote in the primaries. While there were several factors that could have influenced a vote, like whether or not a candidate was able to come out, he said he is still interested in seeing the results.
“I thought this was definitely a success and really encouraging,” Hollenkamp said. “It far exceeded my expectations for the first event of this type in this area. It was great. I definitely think it’s something that they should work to put on again.”