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California flunks political courage test

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Monday, September 8th, 2008 at 3:49 pm in 2008 presidential election, 2008 presidential primary.

Project Vote Smart, a Montana-based nonpartisan group, released results today of its California “Political Courage Test” but contain your anticipation: Half of the state’s congressional candidates refused to answer the questions and two-thirds of legislative candidates declined.

A decade ago, candidates came under considerable political and public pressure to respond to the test. But as fewer and fewer candidates participate, the incentive has rapidly disappeared. The media rarely cover it, either — there’s no news in questions that no one answers.

Today, political consultants consistently advise their clients to stay clear of answering the test on the grounds that it will restrict their campaign messages and serve as fodder for nasty mailers. (It’s a set of questions on a broad range of issues: click here to see the site and the questionnaire.)

Some East Bay candidates did fill it out, though. Here’s a list of the candidates you can look up on Project Vote Smart’s web site and see how they answered the questions:

Congressional District 7: William Callison, Peace and Freedom; Camden McConnell, Libertarian; Roger Petersen, Republican. (Incumbent Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, did not participate.)

Congressional District 9: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Charle Hargrave, Republican; James Eyer, Libertarian

Congressional District 10: Nicholas Gerber, Republican; Eugene Ruyle, Peace and Freedom. (Incumbent Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, did not participate.)

Granted, none of the incumbents in these races will face a viable opponent on Nov. 4.

But in the most contested congressional district in California and one of the top five targeted races in the United State, neither candidate participated including incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, and Dean Andal of Stockton. In McNerney’s 2006 campaign, foes used some of his answers in campaign literature.

Among the East Bay legislative candidates, Assembly District 15 candidate Joan Buchanan, a San Ramon Democrat, responded did not respond. (It’s unclear whether or not her Republican opponent, Abram Wilson of San Ramon, responded. His name does not appear in either the “willing” or “unwilling” lists.)

Sen. Tom Torlakson of Antioch, who is running for Assembly District 10, declined to participate as did his Republican challenger, Elizabeth Hansen.

NOTE CORRECTION THIS MORNING: An astute reader found my mistake in the reference to Joan Buchanan. Project Vote Smart sent out a “willing” and “unwilling” to participate list and I was looking at the wrong heading. My apologies. It was, however, a simple error and not a conspiracy.

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  • RR

    What the hay! California ain’t the Oxford Union or the fabled free market of ideas and reasoned discourse. No sensible politico wastes time saying or writing too much about a wide variety of issues during a general election campaign. It only confuses the voters.

  • Ted Ford

    Lisa, I am really surprised by your comment that “none of the incumbents faces a viable opponent”. I really think that’s a demeaning and gratuitous insult of the public minded people who bravely go out there to debate and contest these races. Even if they only get 5% of the vote, they should be commended. Every candidate enriches the political process.

  • Truthclubber

    Ms. Vorderbrueggen –

    Please stop being “in the tank” for your lovely friends at “Team Tauscher” — we aren’t buying that drivel any more, even when it’s applied to the latest “large dollar contributor” person she’s trying to jam down our throats as an elected crony, er, official — such as Joan Buchanan. Contrary to what your propaganda would have us believe, Buchanan did NOT respond to any questions posed by Vote Smart, but rather, according to their own web site, as noted here: (http://www.votesmart.org/npat.php?can_id=104351) “…repeatedly refused to provide any answers to citizens on the issues through the 2008 Political Courage Test when asked to do so by the national leaders of the political parties, prominent members of the media, Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball, and Project Vote Smart staff.”

    I sense that they (Project Vote Smart) must (correctly, it would seem) think you are not a “prominent member of the media”, but please do the rest of us a favor and keep your obvious bias to yourself — Thomas Paine would expect no less.

    P.S. The absence of any publicity for polls done by “Team Buchanan” strongly suggests that they are hurting in those polls they obviously already paid for — and that’s before the CCPOA union tries to take Arnold down, and has that backfire on them and every Democrat accepting union support come November 4th.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    Ted,
    Other than McNerney, the other East Bay congressional incumbents do not have viable opponents. It’s a fact. It is not, however, a reflection on the challengers’ intentions, motives or their fulfillment of democracy’s principles. I congratulate anyone who decides to run for office but I will not pretend that they all have an equal chance of winning.

  • RR

    Plenty of screwballs run for office. It isn’t being patriotic, it’s an ego exercise.

  • Arlene K Mose, CPA

    Ms Vorderbrueggen – I am beginning to agree with RR who says the srewballs run for office. Can someone please get the taped public recordings of the Los Medanos Community Health Care District to the press. The community needs to hear how their elected officials handle meetings, community, and finances. It is shameful.

  • Renegade GOP

    Ted get a life Lisa is right there is no serious opposition to any of the East Bay congressional incumbents except for McNerney. I guess we could call Andal a serious contender for now. The fact is that political parties scrape to get candidates to run for seats they have no hope of winning. Look at the district 7 state senate seat. The state GOP had to draft some kid right out of college to run against DeSaulnier.
    Tauscher has not had any serious opposition since she vanquished local conservative icon Bill Baker back in 1996. In 1996 Tauscher seemed to come out of nowhere. But she was extremely well connected politically AND had tons of cash to swamp Baker with. Additionally Baker was becoming very unpopular among a lot of regular Republicans who were not part of the far right or were subjected to his narrow ideological world view. The fact that he lost his district which may have had a narrow Republican lead in registration at the time is all the more damming. Tauscher at the time was sort of a Judy Lloyd character on steroids. I am woman hear me roar because I am to big for conservatives to ignore!
    The Gerber fellow who is running against Tauscher is not ready for primetime. It is a shame that the Republicans are so depleted that nobody took Gerber aside and told him to run for an achievable seat to build a base of support and accomplishments before running for congress. Gerber would have been better served running for (I believe he lives in Moraga) Moraga town council. But the local GOP was probably so happy to have someone run against Tauscher and he was willing to write a $100,000 check. Hey you go Mr. Gerber!
    I love the hopeless campaigns. They give us something to write about and laugh about!

  • Rewgolfer

    Congressman George Miller hasn’t had a serious opponnent since 1973. I supported him then – I was 18 years old and I cast my frist vote for him – but I’m 54 now and he is still in office. 35 years seems like a long time for anybody to hold a Congressional seat.
    Anytime you have someobdy in office that long – or a party – it leads to corruption. While Miller’s not a dishonest politician, he has been going on all this junkets since his pal Pelosi got the speakership; a lot of these junkets are taxpayer paid vacations. That’s corruption. I’m a blue collar worker and I had to cancel my vacation because of the high price of gas. Anyway, I’d like to see competitive legislative races which is why I’m backing the plan to have a commission do reappportionment every ten years.

  • Rewgolfer

    The late Sam Rayburn Speaker of the House for 16 years – known for his absolute integrity – took a single trip during his 40 plus years in Congress. When he died he had 10,000 in a passbook savings account. His biographers say he lived in a tiny apartment during his years in DC – they described as a “starter” apartment. What a contrast to these modern yuppie types in Congress. The last time I checked Peolsi was on a junket to Japan. In the case of Miller, he’s been in Congress so long he may have served with Rayburn.