High school seniors -- many not old enough to vote -- will host a comprehensive candidate forum Wednesday in Wellsville.
Wellsville High School seniors Brett Lyman and Donna Krueger brought their own agenda to the political luncheon in Lawrence.
They met U.S. Rep. Vince Snowbarger, R-Kan., and Bryan Riley, a GOP candidate for insurance commissioner.
House Speaker Tim Shallenburger, the GOP candidate for state treasurer, managed to elude the duo.
That was fine, because the real target was U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican running for election to a full six-year term.
Encountering the candidate, they were direct: Would the senator attend an Ice Cream Social and Election Forum, hosted by Wellsville's senior class, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the high school?
"I might," Brownback said.
He said appearing there a mere six days before Election Day could be difficult to arrange, but the final decision was up to campaign staff.
"He said he wasn't in control of his schedule," Krueger said.
Not the commitment they sought, but Lyman and Krueger learned a basic political lesson -- it's impossible to get what you don't ask for. Any candidate who has struggled to raise a pile of money for a campaign understands that.
Lyman said the biggest challenge of organizing the free, community forum was meshing with the dense dockets of candidates. In many cases, candidates that cannot attend the forum will send stand-in representatives.
"It's difficult getting connected with the right people," said Lyman, who will be among students responsible for asking questions of forum participants.
Two years ago, the program coordinated by Wellsville seniors attracted an audience of 300 people. It was a community service project that American government teacher Diana Laufenberg decided to revive in 1998.
Students in Laufenberg's classes have prepared a voter guide, which will be distributed to people
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attending the event. Her students were required to conduct research on candidates and work with the respective campaigns. Groups of students also visited 10 community organizations to formally invite members to the forum.
Other high school students conducted a voter-registration drive at Wellsville volleyball and football games.
"This is hands-on experience," said Krueger, 17. "I think this will help us choose who to vote for when we turn 18 and help us learn how government works."
The ice cream social will be 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The 90-minute forum with candidates will follow the social and involve races for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, statewide offices, the Legislature and county precinct committeeman.
Laufenberg said nearly all Wellsville seniors had registered to vote -- even if they weren't 18 years of age. Applications will be activated on their respective birthdays, she said.
One-third of students in one of Laufenberg's morning classes are eligible to vote, and most intend to cast ballots Nov. 3. One student, Hesper Gray, said her parents hadn't regularly voted, but that wouldn't deter her.
"I don't want to be one of those people who do not vote and then turn around and complain," Gray said.
-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.