Candidates for federal, state and county office participated in a nearly three-hour forum at the Coleman-Bush building tonight sponsored by the NAACP, Polk Voters League and League of Women Voters. Scrub ahead to:

  • 1:40 to hear candidates for U.S. Congress, governor (Philip Levine made a brief appearance and a rep stayed to answer questions), and a rep for a Florida attorney general candidate.
  • 47:00 to hear candidates for Florida Senate and Polk County Commission
  • 1:32:00 to hear candidates for circuit judge
  • 2:01:00 to hear candidates  Polk School Board

Candidates who participated were:

  • U.S. House District 15: All three Democratic candidates: Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned and Raymond Peña; and one of five Republican candidates: Danny Kushmer
  • Florida Senate: District 22 candidate Bob Doyel and District 20 candidates Joy Gibson and Kathy Lewis. All are Democrats; Republican incumbents in both seats have no primary opposition.
  • Polk County Commission: District 2 candidate Kathryn “Kat” Gates-Skipper and District 4 candidates Jim Guth and Karen Cooper Welzel.
  • Circuit Judge: All five candidates – Lee Cohen, Melissa Gravitt and Keith Merritt for Seat 10; Dana Moore and Steve Pincket for Seat 11.
  • Polk School Board: Three of four candidates for District 3 – Sarah Fortney, LaTrice Moore and Kala Ivy Tedder. (Scott Jones did not show); all three candidates for District 5, Terry Clark, Kay Fields and Jennifer Stebins; and both candidates for District 7, David Byrd and Lisa Miller.

A second candidate forum will be held in October to hear from candidates running in races on the general election ballot, moderator Keith V. Ward Sr. said.

Ward said an error resulted in several candidates not being invited until very recently and several had made other commitments. He did not specify which candidates were affected.


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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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