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Hosting a stellar candidates forum

Part four of our series on planning your Program of Work incorporates our grassroots structure and policy implementation. Read on to learn how your county Farm Bureau can play a role.

Candidates Forum: Holding Elected Officials Accountable, Farm Bureau Style

People join Farm Bureau because of our focus on grassroots policy development and implementation. As the collective voice for agriculture in Montana we strive to be the driver behind solid, common sense laws that promote, protect, and enhance our number one industry.

A large part of passing good policy is electing good lawmakers. A candidates forum gives your county Farm Bureau and your community a chance to see first-hand how local and state elected officials feel on issues important to you.

Candidates Forum 101

A candidates forum is an event in which candidates running for local or state wide elections are invited to participate. They offer a great deal of interaction because the audience is the one asking the questions. People may write their question on a note card and the card is picked up by a volunteer and delivered to the screeners or the moderator. Once a question is asked, each candidate is allowed a timed response.

There’s often more time for interaction with candidates following the forum. You can host a coffee hour after the official forum and allow candidates to mingle with attendees. This type of event empowers voters to engage in the election process and really understand who they’re electing.

How it Works // Four tips for a successful forum: 

  1. Decide on the races early: You aren’t limited to just local candidates or only members of the House or Senate. If there’s a contested race—invite the candidates! This might be county commissioner, sherriff, candidates for House and Senate seats, Congressional candidates, even candidates for governor. A piece of cautionary advice; pick only the races that are contested otherwise you run the risk of the forum dragging on.

  2. Invite the candidates: Once you’ve picked the races, invite the candidates. Their schedules fill up fast and you definitely want to be on the radar.

  3. Get a moderator: This person plays an important role. They ask the questions and will keep the candidates on track. The moderator has the discretion to throw out questions they deem as personal attacks, inflammatory, or otherwise inappropriate. It’s important for this person to be assertive and understand the rules of the forum. If you have someone locally who’s comfortable in this position that’s great! If not—several members of the MFBF staff have moderated forums and are happy to help.

  4. Set the Rules: This event requires structure. It’s important for the audience to submit questions in the same format and for candidates to have the same opportunity to respond. You can write your own rules or use these Montana Farm Bureau established rule.


By following four easy steps you’ll be on your way to organizing a candidates forum. The benefit of this event is really two-fold:



  • Your county Farm Bureau becomes the vehicle delivering important policy information to your members and your communities.

  • The candidates see the Farm Bureau as a driving force behind agriculture policy creation and implementation.


So, not only do you have the chance to maybe recruit some new members at this event, but your county is also helping solidify Farm Bureau as a major influencer among our local and state elected officials. In our opinion, those are pretty good reasons to host a candidates forum!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series and gotten some great ideas for new events! For questions about these or other events be sure to contact your Regional Manager.