VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT)- It may not have felt like the final run-up to election day, with temperatures across the Tri-State topping 90 degrees, but the nation is indeed just weeks away from the November 8th election.

After months, if not years, of campaigning, canvassing, and peppering the area with lawn signs- election season is heating up with candidates honing their message and meeting with voters one-on-one at forums hosted by organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police.

While the Vanderburgh County Sheriff and Prosecutor races have grabbed headlines all election season, Wednesday’s forum gave candidates running in a number of key local races a chance to get their message out there.

Democratic Vanderburgh County Commission candidate Ryan Stratman told the packed house at the FOP lodge that the “political atmosphere is toxic and it needs to be tamped down” before it tears more families, and the country, apart. Stratman’s opponent, Republican Justin Elpers, focused on his three main priorities: pro-business policies, safe communities, and a good quality of life across the county.

Candidates also fielded questions prepared by the FOP on a number of issues facing the law enforcement community from low recruitment numbers for the Evansville Police Department and the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office, to the future of the Vanderburgh County Jail, to public safety at large.

Republican sheriff candidate Jeff Hales, who remained cool on the idea of paying the Vanderburgh County Jail said that the office doesn’t necessarily have the staff yet to handle a larger facility. Hales later bristled at a question about the January 6th insurrection, saying he defends law enforcement, adding that he thinks the question should’ve been focused more on Antifa.

Democrat Noah Robinson said he’ll defend and support deputies but noted he’ll apologize for their mistakes and hold them accountable in a way that is fair and personal, adding that voters can trust him with public safety because he “knows the law” and follows it.

In due time, the FOP will issue endorsements on a number of these races- with one notable exception. With both Hales and Robinson being “members in good standing” FOP official D.J. Thompson says it would do the organization “no good” to endorse either candidate formally, saying it could risk dividing the FOP when he says “both would make good sheriffs.”

Still, Thompson says Wednesday’s event gave voters who may not otherwise know the candidates or their platforms well a chance to learn more about them and their opponents.