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February 19, 2010  BY David Reed

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted Friday to endorse candidates in a city council election for the first time.

The board, following the recommendations of a Chamber task force, endorsed one candidate in each of three races on the April 6 ballot: Bob McDavid for mayor, Gary Kespohl for the 3rd Ward and Daryl Dudley for the 4th Ward.

Chamber President Don Laird said the group has endorsed issues on ballots in the past, but had not endorsed candidates in the past. Laird said the most recent survey of the approximately 1,200 Chamber members indicated they wanted the organization to become more actively engaged in the political process.

The Endorsement Task Force was chaired by Randy Coil and selected by Chamber Chairman Byron Hill, but Laird declined to name the other five members.

Each candidate was sent a questionnaire, which was reviewed by the Task Force.  In February, all candidates except for Sal Nuccio attended the Chamber candidate forum.  Members of the Endorsement Task Force were present at that forum to further evaluate the candidates.

Laird said the candidates the Chamber chose to endorse displayed strong leadership traits with the ability to handle tough issues.  He said they are also able to bring the community together with a good balance of differing opinions and backgrounds.