Last updated: February 17. 2013 8:18AM - 145 Views

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WILKES-BARRE – Candidates in the 11th and 17th Congressional Districts will outline their positions and debate face-to-face for the first time this election year at two community forums hosted this week by The Times Leader and Wilkes University.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta and Gene Stilp, the candidates for the 11th Congressional District, will take part Monday at 7 p.m., while Matt Cartwright and Laureen Cummings, candidates for the 17th Congressional District, will square off on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The forums will be open to the public and will be held at Wilkes University in Room 101 of the Stark Learning Center, 150-180 S. River St. Seating in the auditorium-style room will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each forum is expected to last one and a half to two hours.

"The Times Leader is glad to work with Wilkes University and take the lead to organize forums," Times Leader Vice President and Executive Editor Joe Butkiewicz said. "We want people of this region to have the opportunity to hear the candidates who want to represent the area in Washington."

Times Leader Editorial Page Editor Mark Jones, moderator of the forums, said he will ask the candidates questions about the most important issues affecting the lives of Northeastern Pennsylvania residents, and economic and "pocketbook issues" will predominate.

"We're billing it more as a candidate forum than a debate, hoping there would be more on the side of substance rather than on fireworks," Jones said, "so that the people in our area have the important information they need to make their decision."

Some of the questions Jones will ask were submitted by readers of The Times Leader. Each candidate will be given two minutes to answer each question, and Jones said he will be firmer in enforcing the time limits than moderator Jim Lehrer was during last week's presidential debate.

Free parking for the forums is available in the Wilkes lot behind the Henry Student Center, located at 84 W. South St.

Both forums can be seen live on WYLN-TV Channel 7 starting at 7 each night.

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