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WINTER HAVEN – Polk County political candidates will be stumping for votes a new way this election year.

Because of COVID-19, voters will have the option to rub elbows with candidates virtually during the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce’s Whistle Stop Hob Nob, taking place now through Aug. 14.

“We want the electorate to be informed about the candidates,” said Katie Worthington Decker, the Chamber’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “This is the safest way to do that.”

Decker conducted one-on-one interviews with candidates who signed up to be a part of the event. She sat down with each candidate around the second week of July and talked to them for about 20 minutes each. Candidates for a specific seat were asked the same questions.

The videos of the interviews were edited and are now available on the Greater Winter Haven Chamber’s YouTube channel.

“I asked them who they are, what they are most proud of and why voters should vote for them,” Decker said.

Visitors to the chamber’s YouTube channel do not have to log on at a specific time and there is no live question-and-answer period. According to the chamber website, videos will play in order of recording through a playlist on the chamber's YouTube page, as well as on the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce website and social media channels.

“People who are interested can just go on to YouTube when they are able and watch the videos,” Decker said.

The candidates who participated include:

Florida House of Representatives, District 41 - Sam Killebrew and Jared West

Lake Region Lakes Management District, Seat 2 - Steve Enzor and John Lewis

Polk County Commissioner, District 3 - William Braswell

Polk County Commissioner, District 5 - John Hall

Polk County School Board District 2 - Lori Cunningham and Anita Carson

Polk County School Board, District 1 - William Allen and Billy Townsend

Polk County Supervisor of Elections - Debbie Hannifan

State Senate District 20 - Kathy Lewis

“In a regular year, the ‘meet the candidates’ event is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year,” Decker said. “But, this year, we just couldn’t do that.”

The candidates contributed $150 to be a part of this year’s Whistle Stop.

The Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates. This re-imagined event is intended to be a relaxed way for candidates to tell the public what they stand for, what they want to accomplish in office and why they should vote for them.

To watch the videos, or for more information, visit winterhavenchamber.com.