Presidential debate questioner, Mineola worker talks about Libya, Debate 2012 and whom he may vote for
One question, depending on its thoroughness, weight and response could make or break the person who answers it. Whether it’s during a press conference on a drug bust, while standing in line at the supermarket or in front of millions of people on television, a question can create something.
Kerry Ladka knew the importance of a question, and when his name was called he was ready, but after the response, he wanted to know more…much more.
Going into the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Ladka, of Global Telecom Supply in Mineola, was chosen by the Gallup organization to be one of 82 undecided voters to watch the heavyweight jargon match between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Gallup representatives scoured the designated area for undecided voters of Nassau County approximately a week to 10 days before the debate, according to Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport.
Ladka, 61, said he received a call from Gallup asking random questions, ranging from his intention to vote, if he was a registered voter, income level and the list goes on. It didn’t take long for the polling giant to realize it had a candidate for the chance of a lifetime.
“For most people, it’s a thrilling experience for them,” said Newport. “It’s a fun experience. Mainly, [town hall] is a great format and I want to make sure it works well.”
No more than 15 minutes after the initial call, Ladka, an independent, said Gallup called back indicating “a few spots” were still available for the town-hall style debate.
“I said ‘yes’ immediately,” Ladka stated.
Gallup has handled each town hall debate since 1992, the first being at the University of Richmond and the second at the University of San Diego in 1996. In 2000 and 2004, Washington University in St. Louis, MO, held both town hall talks while in 2008, Belmont University was selected.
“We do this under contract with the Commission on Presidential Debates,” Newport said. “The procedures that we use are agreed upon by both the Obama and Romney campaign…the lighting, the heights of the podium, everything has to be agreed to.”
Ladka said that the chosen voters were asked to write out four questions prior to arriving at the Garden City Hotel where everyone was stationed on the morning of the debate. Enter CNN’s Candy Crowley.
“Crowley and her producers took all our questions and spent the majority of the day reviewing them,” he said. “At about 5:30, 6 o’clock that evening, they gave us each one question of the four that we had written out to ask in the event that we were called on. We had no idea if we were going to be called on or not.”
“Pure luck” is what the Hempstead resident called his chance to speak to Obama and Romney. He sat waiting patiently, wondering if he’d get the opportunity that most people dream of: the possibility of influencing a presidential election.
The genesis of Ladka’s question, which inquired about the individual who refused enhanced security in Benghazi, Libya prior to attacks that killed four Americans, occurred inside the walls of an office building on Windsor Court in Mineola. Whether it’s sports, politics, film or the environment, these discussions regularly occur between Ladka and his coworkers, who he declined to name.
“Once in a while, the conversation wanders over to sports or politics or whatever,” Ladka stated. “Someone was saying ‘Did you hear about that embassy situation in Libya where four people died?’ The more I looked into it, the more I thought that would be an appropriate question for the debate.”
Did Ladka get the answer he was looking for? He thinks that “Everyone is dancing around the topic” and that the question had nothing to do with if the president reacted immediately, calling it a terrorist attack.
“The question was, Ambassador [Christopher] Stevens requested a week or so prior to the attack, enhanced security for the consulate in Benghazi,” Ladka affirmed. “That extra protection was denied by the State Department. Who denied it? And why?”
But there was a reason the answer turned into a political talking point; a reason the president revealed to Ladka minutes after his tussle with the former Massachusetts governor.
“[The president] came up to me and said ‘Kerry, I just wanted to elaborate on the question you asked,’” Ladka revealed. “All he said was that the reason he took so much time before he formally called it a terrorist attack was that he wanted to make sure that the intelligence he was acting on was good, solid, true intelligence and not disinformation. He wanted to be deliberate and get the truth before he did anything.”
Ladka appeared in On The Record with Great Van Susteren after the third debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL, stating he was still undecided on his vote for the presidency. In an interview with Anton Community Newspapers, he said he might swing toward the left.
“I’m leaning toward the president,” he concluded.