The topic of candidate questionnaires is in the news lately. A group called “Project Vote Smart” sent the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s Michael Silence an email telling him about their website which catalogues candidate questionnaires and endorsements. The NPAT (National Political Awareness Test) that PVS uses, asks one major question:
“Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face on their behalf?”
Those who are readers of this site know that I’m a bit ahead of the curve on this issue, as I have archived every candidate questionnaire, all financial information, and many other records. I believe that the voters have the right to know my positions on the issues that I would most likely face on their behalf in the Tennessee Senate.
Coincidentally, I received notice yesterday from the Tennessee Medical Association, that the answers from my candidate questionnaire, along with all the others were available on their website. Here is how Senator Henry answered his survey from the TMA:
[Sen. Henry] Sent [a] letter stating that it was his policy not to answer on how he would vote on legislation until he has at least looked over the bill.
In other words, Senator Henry doesn’t share my belief that the voters have the “right” to know his positions on issues he might face. (To view the TMA candidate questionnaires, CLICK HERE, then select the Senate, then the 21st District, and you’ll see side by side that I answered every question, and Sen. Henry answered none of them.)
Why is this important? Because, you the voter, are hiring either Sen. Henry or myself to represent you for the next four years in the State Senate. You have the right to demand answers of us, just as if this campaign were a job interview–which it is.
Let me give you an example of why this is important? Remember the motorcycle helmet issue? A voter who said he was with a group called CMT/ABATE (I don’t know what it stands for, but it calls itself a motorcycle rights organization) asked me what I thought of motorcycle helmet laws. I answered his question via email, and posted the answer on line. And I gave the same answer to CMT/ABATE who supports repeal of the motorcycle helmet law, as I gave to the TMA who wants to keep it.
In subsequent email communications I asked the CMT/ABATE voter to send me a link to where I could view how the other candidates in the race answered the question. He responded,
I only asked you and Mr. Forseca those questions. . . . Senator Henry has been a friend to us for too long to move our support to someone who talks big.
Indeed, Senator Henry has supported the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law in the past. But by not answering questions from either CMT/ABATE or the TMA, he is not on the record as having taken sides.
Certainly, it’s politically smart for an incumbent to say as little as possible about anything controversial. His non-answers enable him to continue to curry favor with motorcycle rights organizations, while not offending doctors.
But is it right to deny voters the whole truth?
You may not like the positions I’ve taken on this issue and many others, but at least you don’t have to guess or assume to know where I stand. Your elected leaders owe you at least that much.