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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
One of the main events of Southeast Conference’s 2018 annual meeting in Ketchikan will be a forum with all three gubernatorial candidates; only the second time during the election season in which all three candidates have faced off.
Incumbent Gov. Bill Walker — an independent — will take questions alongside his fellow competitors Mark Begich and Mike Dunleavy.
Begich, a Democrat, is a former U.S. senator, and Dunleavy, a Republican, is a former Alaska state senator.
The event will begin around noon on Wednesday.
Southeast Conference Executive Director Robert Venables told the Daily News on Friday that the forum would be open to anyone in town free of charge.
Members of the public will come in and be welcome to observe if they’d like to and there’s room,” Venables said. “… Members of the public are welcome.”
The forum is expected to last more than an hour, with a lunch included for paying attendees of the conference.
Venables will be moderating the forum and said that most of the questions will be specific to issues facing Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska as a whole.
“Pretty much the questions we expect are really revolving around the topics we will be discussing those two-and-half days,” Venables said, “but we will be taking questions from the floor so they're not all pre-known.
“We’re going to let our members engage the candidates and get a chance to know them and vice-versa,” he added.
According to Venables, comment cards will be collected from the audience prior to the forum, allowing for a more diverse array of questions.
And although all three candidates are meeting in one place, Venables emphasized that back-and-forth argumentation is not anticipated.
“This is not a debate. The candidates will not be engaging each other,” he said. “This is a forum for them to answer questions that Southeast (Alaska) has for them.”
As the election season gears up, many have paid close attention to the race between Walker, Begich and Dunleavy.
The first time the three candidates sat down together was Thursday in Juneau for a forum hosted by the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.