Every election season, news organizations and various interest groups send surveys to candidates to get them them to take actual positions on issues that matter. The responses are worth our time. Not just because we should be informed about who we’re voting for, but because sometimes we need to remember that, away from the soul-draining destructiveness of our national political and cultural war, democracy is still real.
In our age of bitter, scorched-earth politics, a lot of us probably chose the candidates we want to support for state senator and state representative a long time ago, before we even knew for sure who those candidates would be. When politics and culture and identity are so closely intertwined it may matter less what candidates believe on the issues and more who we are when we step into the voting booth.
I don’t have to tell you that this can be a very bad thing. If politics and culture are one, issues are less important than boosting your own culture and smacking down your culture’s enemies.
That’s the kind of thinking that allows leaders to try to legally obliterate a whole class of people. And it’s the mindset that leads people to send pipe bombs through the mail.
It’s been a rough week. It’s not every week that the government puts out memos trying to define people like me out of existence! I needed to remember that democracy is still trying to work here and elsewhere, just so I could have a little hope for the future.
CTNewsJunkie.com invited all candidates to respond to a survey with questions written by news and opinion writers. There were also two sponsored questions from AARP Connecticut, which does not endorse candidates but has an interest in finding out where candidates stand on issues important to their membership.
The answers are posted on Vote.CTNewsJunkie.com.
I spent some time reading through responses from dozens of candidates. Here’s what I learned.
First, way fewer candidates respond to these surveys than I would have thought. How long does it take to fill out a survey, 20 minutes or so? I wonder about the calculus there. Do candidates figure that nobody reads survey answers? That’s depressing.
Second, at least for state representative and state senate races, way more Democrats than Republicans answered questions. I don’t really want to try and explain this one, maybe there’s a good reason. Maybe it’s a statistical fluke! I’m sure it has nothing to do with anyone’s constant and terrifying attacks on the news media, because that would be chilling.
Third, incumbents tended to answer questions less than challengers. This makes sense, challengers are struggling uphill against voter inertia and all the other advantages incumbents enjoy, and they need to take every chance they can get to stand out. Still, kudos to those incumbents who did answer questions, like Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, Rep. Bill Buckbee, R-New Milford, and Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford.
Third, Democrats are definitely not a monolith when it comes to tolls and marijuana, two likely high-profile issues for the next General Assembly. Democrats are wavering between Ned Lamont’s clunky and short-sighted plan to enact tolls only on trucks passing through the state, and embracing something more robust. For example, Anne Hughes of Easton, who is running against Rep. Adam Dunsby, R-Easton, says:
I would support SMART electronic tolls, with congestion pricing, preferred in-state commuter rates, limited to borders, I-95 and I-84 and I-91 arteries, and would analyze carefully lowering the state gas tax in tandem with implementing tolls, so that trucks using our highways as pass-through corridors would have incentive to fill up in in-state fuel stations.
Oh my god, she’s completely right. Why is she stuck in Easton, in a district that’s been solidly Republican for generations? C’mon, blue wave, do me this one thing!
Lastly, there’s a lot of minor-party candidates out there, and they tend to have the most interesting answers. Some of them make me wish our system allowed for more than just two parties, like Mary L. Sanders, a Green who is running against State Rep. Julio Concepcion. Here’s her answer about balancing the needs of the vulnerable against the need to cut the budget:
I come from a human service background and have seen the widening income gap and how the poor have become even poorer. Vulnerable populations need to be provided with food, housing & utilities, healthcare, education & training, job development, and other services but these can and should be funded by a combination of municipal, state, federal, and private funding streams. I do feel there needs to be more caution and accountability with state bonding, development grants, employer incentive programs and other corporate welfare programs.
So go check out the voter guide, and if your candidates aren’t there, ask them why. There’s so much more going on this election than just the apocalyptic battle between blue and red, and it’s refreshing, especially during a week that’s been so draining and scary, to remember that.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.
Below are direct links to the candidates who have thus far completed our questionnaire.