CONWAY — The Gibson Center for Senior Services went viral Tuesday, hosting the first of its annual five-minute candidate forums via Zoom over the internet due to the COVD-19 pandemic.

And while it was a virtual success for the candidates, as a record 14 Democrats participated, only a handful of citizens  tuned in to watch the 90-minute event.

Fortunately, Valley Vision Channel 3 and the Sun will re-air the forum online and on their websites.

The forum, organized by Gibson Program Director Jill Reynolds and co-moderated by Knute Ogren, chair of the Carroll County Democrats, attracted nearly every candidate on Conway’s primary ballot, from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas; gubernatorial candidates Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and state Sen. Dan Feltes, both of Concord; to fellow Democrats running for state and county offices, including incumbent District 1 Executive Councilor Michael Cryans; and Theresa Swanick of Effingham, who is running for state Senate in District 3. The District 3 seat is held by state Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), who is running for re-election.

The primary will take place Sept. 8.

Volinsky, who was the Claremont school funding lawyer, still doesn’t believe education is funded properly in the Granite State.

“I lead a team of volunteer lawyers that exposed just how unfairly our schools are funded, and how the quality of a child's education really depends on where she lives," he said during his five minutes.

"We did more than just expose the problem for the first time in our state's history. We convinced the Supreme Court to recognize a constitutional right to a state-funded public education. That was a bold idea. But for lack of courageous leadership, we've never fully realized the promise of Clermont. I am running for governor to realize that promise to ensure that seniors feel safe in their homes so that taxpayers pay their fair share, and no more so that children have good quality schools across our state.”

Feltes, majority leader of the state Senate, took Gov. Chris Sununu to task for not having a plan for students to return safely to schools.

“This is about how we move forward and get out of this mess, including right now with our schools, no school reopening plan, no clear guidelines, no public health standards and no financial support for schools,” he said.

“Chris Sununu punted it all down to the local level, just like (President Donald) Trump punted it all down. It's no wonder he calls himself a Trump guy through and through. We put out our own plan, ‘Live Free and Learn Safe (at tinyurl.com/y24wrn5j).’”

Shaheen talked about the pandemic and providing economic help to Americans.

“Like me, everyone who's watching is concerned about what's happening with the coronavirus pandemic, and all of the fallout that has resulted from that,” she said. “We’ve got action in Washington to get another package of assistance to help people who are suffering, businesses that are struggling through this pandemic, and that's what I'm going to be working on in Washington.

“But to get this economy up and running again, what w'vee really got to do is address the coronavirus pandemic. We need a strategy at the national level to address testing and contact tracing so we can find out who might be positive for the coronavirus and the people that they've come in contact with," she said.

Pappas, who will spend Wednesday in Carroll County, also touched on the virus.

“We all know through the suffering, the loss, the economic pain that we're seeing as a result of COVID-19, I think we're also seeing that New Hampshire is doing what we do best, which is working together, figuring out ways to help our friends, neighbors and family members who are engaged in mobilizing from the ground up in a remarkable way, we surely all have a role to play. And in order to keep our numbers in a good place and stay ahead of this virus, we all have some personal responsibility, and some community responsibility to follow those public health guidelines take steps of our own to ensure our safety.”

Cryans believes more citizens need better broadband access.

“I don't know how many people have called me and said, 'My kid has to go sit in the parking lot and do his homework.' Or they tell me, 'I want to do telehealth, but we don't have access to do that.' Or I've talked to somebody that would like to move out of a city environment and come up here, but their concern was that they couldn't run their business from their house because they don't have high speed, internet connection.”

Also taking part in the forum were local state representatives and candidates for those seats. (Stay tuned for a separate story in The Conway Daily Sun about their five-minute speeches).

The Republicans are scheduled to take center stage on Aug. 18, from 1-3 p.m. via Zoom.

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