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Candidates use forum to challenge each other

By Staff | Oct 28, 2009

With less than a week before the general election, some candidates took last-minute shots at each other Tuesday night at a candidate forum hosted by the Cape Coral Civic Association.
It was a different approach than the city’s question-and-answer format last week, though the candidates did find time to touch on a few topics that have found their way into local debates: transmissions lines through the Community Redevelopment Agency’s district, the Zemel property and septic systems in the north, to name a few.
Tuesday’s forum became interesting when moderator and former councilmember Alex LePera let the candidates tee-off on each other.
She allowed each candidate to ask a question or make a statement about their opponent, followed by a minute-long rebuttal.
District 4 candidate Chris Chulakes-Leetz laid into not only incumbent Dolores Bertolini, who he said did not care what people think, but the forum itself, calling LaPera’s questions “poor.”
“It’s been very poor questions,” he told the crowd. “We have not been allowed to get into the meat of this campaign.”
Bertolini called Chulakes-Leetz’s statements “hogwash,” and challenged her opponent to explain his exit from employment as an emergency medical technician.
“Have you told the truth about your past?” she asked. “Describe how you left EMS. It was not by choice.”
Chulakes-Leetz welcomed anyone in the crowd to talk with him privately about the matter, but only answered Bertolini by saying that he left his service as an EMS technician with “honor and dignity.”
LePera also challenged the candidates by firing a series of quick questions that required only one word answers.
A few she asked included: What was a point of order? What was a point of information? What was the difference between rescind and reconsider?
LePera said recent city council meetings have lost the “look and feel” of a professional meeting, and she wants to make certain that candidates would approach the dais with tact and efficiency.
The candidates answered her questions quickly and seemed, for the most part, to address her concerns.
The general election is Tuesday, but early voting continues until Saturday. Hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Polling locations are 1031 S.E. Ninth Place, No. 3, and 2480 Thompson St. in Fort Myers. Registered voters can cast their ballots at either location.