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Gov. Gary Herbert talks to community members at WSU Davis campus during “Meet the Candidates Night” hosted by the Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service. (Christina Huerta/The Signpost)

The Weber State University Davis Campus was packed with potential voters on March 30, as the Olene S. Walker Institute hosted a “Candidates Night” to allow those running for office to meet with the community.

Almost 70 candidates running for county, state and congressional positions in Davis, Morgan and Weber counties were at Davis Campus to speak with the throngs of local residents winding their way up and down the rows of tables.

Some of the candidates at the event included Governor Gary Herbert and Sen. Mike Lee, as well as WSU professor and state senate candidate Deana Froerer.

Carol McNamara, director of the Walker Institute, said she was extremely happy with the large turnout, estimating that several hundred people had shown up for the event.

“What keeps me up at night is the idea of an empty room, and this is the opposite of an empty room, so this is exciting,” McNamara said. “The purpose of Candidates Night is to provide a venue for voters and delegates to come and interact with, engage with and question the candidates for office. That’s all we ever hope to do is provide that venue for that exchange of ideas and discussion of policy, and we’re here to serve the public that way.”

McNamara was not the only person at the event who was impressed with the number of people to show up.

“I’m really impressed with the turnout. I actually wasn’t expecting this large of a turnout really,” Layton resident Tricia Pilny said. “I had to walk outside because it was so crowded. It’s kinda hard to stop and take a look at the map. But I’m really impressed. I’m really pleased with the turnout.”

With the large crowd packed inside the ballroom, there were some complaints of the event being too crowded. Clearfield resident William Reilly said he felt the event could have gone better if it had been held at a larger location.

“It’s too packed. You don’t have the opportunity to actually really talk with candidates,” Reilly said. “We’ve been in other forums that have a little bit more leg room so to speak, and in doing so, people can go back several times to get the answers they are looking for and ask the questions that are needed. Something a little bigger would be great.”

Pilny also felt the room was too crowded, adding that she had to step outside momentarily to make sure people didn’t bump into her broken arm.

“I definitely think next time they should pick a bigger location because they will definitely need it,” she said.

McNamara said this year’s candidates night was larger than the previous one, due to the fact that there were more races open this election cycle. She also said that while they will look into the possibility of hosting future candidates nights at a larger venue, she felt that Davis Campus provided the best location because of the size of the room, as well as the larger amount of parking spaces available.

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