Like many of you, I have really enjoyed watching the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. They are a great feature of our political system and, when done well, they provide voters with a clear view of where the candidates stand. You can’t hide when you are directly challenged by your opponent on national television.
Unfortunately, we don’t have televised debates at the state legislative level. Before I ran, I was naive enough to think that we would have many opportunities to be questioned by voters in large, group settings. In reality, there was only one opportunity before the primary for all three of us to be in the same room taking questions. It was the group interview with the Seattle Times Editorial Board. Senator McAuliffe and I were in attendance but Dawn had a prior commitment. Since the primary, there have been four opportunities for the remaining candidates to speak in a group forum. Only two of these events allowed questions from the audience and Senator McAuliffe was the only one in attendance. Without public debates or in-depth reporting, it’s difficult for most citizens to obtain clarity about where our candidates stand.
As a candidate for office, you receive a large number of questionnaires from special interest groups and lobbyists. These groups use your answers to determine if they will donate to your campaign and/or endorse you. There are a lot of these questionnaires and they take time to fill out.
It’s ironic but the most detailed answers that candidates will give during a campaign are probably on these surveys. The questions are usually specific and deal with a narrow set of issues. As you can see on the ones listed below, the groups want to know exactly where you stand on very detailed policy questions. Some candidates fill them out, some don’t. Some candidates only fill them out for the groups that generally support their chosen party. Some of the interest groups post the candidate responses online and others don’t.
I believe that the citizens of the 1st District deserve the same level of detailed answers. If lobbyists and special interest groups are getting answers, then voters should get them too. Right now we are simply consumers of very polished marketing campaigns. We get direct mail pieces from candidates who claim “I know what it takes to create new jobs and get small businesses growing again.” We see signs from vaguely official sounding groups proclaiming their love for candidate x. We see websites with position statements that are carefully crafted by high priced political consultants, geared towards offending the least amount of people while saying nothing of true value.
We deserve more.
But the responsibility to get these answers is our own. We need to be engaged in the political process. We need to take the time to call or email our candidates and elected officials. We need to ask them where they stand on issues that we care about. Take the time to research their experience and ability to work with others. Ask a lot of questions.
And, of course, VOTE!
Here is a sampling of the questionnaires our candidates received for the 2012 election. Maybe you will find a policy issue that is important to you. You can check each group’s website and see if they publish the candidates’ responses. Or, if not, call the candidates and ask them where they stand.
Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (D), 206-724-3109
Dawn McCravey (R), 425-299-1586
Representative Derek Stanford (D), 425-481-6231
Sandy Guinn (R), (425) 489-039
Representative Luis Moscoso (D), (425) 773-0470
Mark Davies (R), (425) 770-5279
Amalgamated Transit Union Leg Council
American Federation of Teachers
Association of Washington Business
Citizens Alliance For Property Rights
Council On American And Islamic Relations
Master Builder Association
Mountlake Terrace News
Municipal League of King County
National Rifle Association
National Federation of Independent Business
Planned Parenthood Northwest
Rental Housing Association
Stand For Children
The Arc of Washington
Washington Conservation Voters
Washington Food Industry Association
Washington Prosperity Project
Washington Retail Association
Washington State Council of Firefighters
Washington State Labor Council
Washington State Nurses Association
Washington Education Association
Others include: League of Humane Voters, Washington Coalition for Open Government, League of Women Voters, Poverty Action Network, Family Policy Institute Washington