Grayson Hall was packed Wednesday night for Primary Forum 2020, hosted by Texoma Marketing and Media Group which publishes of the Herald Democrat and the Van Alstyne Leader.


During the forum, candidates in three contested Grayson County races squared off in advance of the March 3 primaries and spent about 90 minutes debating the issues that may come before them if elected to office.


Incumbent Jeff Whitmire is running against local businessman Jeremy Roberts for the Precinct 1 commissioner’s seat, while incumbent Phyllis James is challenged by local Realtor Colby Meals for the Precinct 3 place and Precinct 4 Constable Bob Douglas vies against Daniel Moores to retain his position.


Three uncontested candidates also addressed the audience during the event. Grayson County District attorney Brett Smith is running to retain his seat, as is 59th District Court Judge and Precinct 1 Constable Tom Carter.


The forum was moderated by Dr. Felix Harcourt, assistant professor of U.S. History at Austin College who has previously moderated similar events in his native England, where he described the political process as being “much more formal and much more raucous” than in the U.S.


The event was Harcourt’s first time leading a debate on this side of the pond.


“As a historian of the United States, you see over and over again that anything that works toward civic engagement in a community is key to the health of our democracy,” Harcourt said before the event kicked off, adding that he looked forward to hearing “straightforward answers” from the candidates.


Commissioners were asked questions that had been prepared by the Herald Democrat as well as several posed by audience members, which had them share their stances on term limits, whether they intended to raise taxes once in office and how they have previously supported the Grayson County Republican party.


The candidates for constable were queried about how their law enforcement experience would shape their role and what changes could prove beneficial for the constable’s office.


Texoma Marketing and Media Group Senior Group Publisher Nate Rodriguez explained the importance of the forum in working to keep Grayson County voters informed.


“As the late patriot John McCain said, `We need a free press.’ We must have it. It’s vital,” Rodriguez said. “Educating our community during these important primaries is vital to our mission of being the authoritative, non-biased voice. We want to bring you the candidates’ voices and let you decide.”


In addition to the candidate forum which is still available to be viewed at http://www.heralddemocrat.com/livestream-candidate-forum, the Herald Democrat and the Van Alstyne Leader will publish a voter’s guide in the weekend edition of the Herald Democrat and the Feb. 26 edition of the Van Alstyne Leader. The guide will contain biographical information for and head-to-head questions with each of the candidates.


The forum was live-streamed online and is available for viewing at http://heralddemocrat.com/livestream-candidate-forum.


Rodriguez said the forum and broadcast serve as “examples of the Herald Democrat and the Van Alstyne Leader going to where our audience and the community is, even if it is outside of the print newspaper. Our jobs are to report the news wherever our community dictates.”