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Declining Accountability

I have a problem with candidates who don’t respond to NRA questionnaires. Regardless of how you might feel about individual legislative and political decisions by NRA, the fact remains that they are a known major interest group with hundreds of thousands of members who vote in Pennsylvania. An unwillingness to even acknowledge questions from such a grassroots organization doesn’t speak well for for their responsiveness to constituents – especially those with whom they might disagree.

So, imagine my surprise when I browsed the NRA-PVF grade listings last night and discovered that almost none of the races had grades for both candidates.

In the PA-13 Congressional District, I have 3 State Senate races and 14 State House races. Of the Senate races, only one has a challenger to the incumbent and the Republican refused to return the questionnaire. In the 14 House races, 11 feature challengers. In 3 of those 11, neither candidate was willing to respond to gun owner questions. In 1 of those 11, the GOP candidate alone remains ungraded. In 6 of the remaining races, the Democrats refused to answer questions. In only one race is there a grade for both candidates.

In the PA-8 Congressional District, Sebastian has 1 State Senate race and 14 State House races. His Senate race is the same as the one in PA-13, so it’s the same situation with the GOP candidate refusing to answer questions about his positions. In his 14 House races, only 10 have challengers. In those 10 races, only 2 of the races feature candidates who both earned grades. In the remaining 8, 1 race has both candidates refusing to answer questions. The final 7 are broken down in failures to be graded as 2 Republicans who refuse to answer and 5 Democrats who won’t be held accountable.

This is a rather disturbing trend of politicians who feel they don’t need to worry about answering to constituents.

If you’re in either of these Congressional Districts (or another area where you see the same trend), get in touch with the candidates at the local level and let them know that their refusal to answer even basic questions of policy disturbs you. Trust me, it makes an impression when voters let candidates know that they won’t support candidates who refuse to answer NRA questionnaires. Even going into his third election, our state representative has never forgotten to respond to NRA ever since his campaign manager screwed up his questionnaire in his first race. He did actually meet a voter who walked out of the polling booth and said he refused to vote for him because he wouldn’t even give a response to NRA. Now, that representative is always responsive to us as gun owner constituents, and he also happens to be A- rated and endorsed.

10 Responses to “Declining Accountability”

  1. Harold says:

    Even going into his third election, our state representative has never forgotten to respond to NRA ever since his campaign manager screwed up his questionnaire in his first race.

    The paranoid in me wonders how many of these campaign staffers are anti-gun and conveniently failing to do this. I don’t know how strongly this extends into this lower level of campaigns, or politicians who are better at picking staff, but the stark example of McCain’s 2008 “professional” campaign staff having agendas often distantly related to getting him and Palin elected and then spending the last bit of the campaign positioning themselves for the loss at the expense of those hiring them is illuminating.

    Although loyalty to McCain is not something that’s necessarily going to be reciprocated….

    • Bitter says:

      It is a valid concern. Hopefully, the lesson was taught since that campaign manager was actually standing next to the candidate when the NRA member came up and told him that he lost votes over it. I do know that the candidate turned to the campaign manager and told him that if he loses by a few votes, it’s clearly his fault. Since then, the candidate also learned and handles it all himself. :)

      I’ll also add that our state rep is truly one-of-a-kind. I don’t want to sound too idealistic, but for someone attracted to politics, he’s the closest you can get to hometown boy just wants to do good. He’s always lived in this town. He is the volunteer fire chief. He still references things around town compared to where his mom lives or where friends live. Before he ran for state representative, he was an the assistant town manager. He stopped campaigning once during his first race to get a family out of a home that had a fire break out in back that they had not spotted yet while he put it out with a garden hose. Just the other day, he was taking care of some fire business when he heard on the radio that there was a low speed car chase through town with a drunk and no one was able to assist the officer, so he got in his truck to make sure it was going to end okay for the officer and ended up helping box the car thief in so that he could be arrested. So, for him, accountability to local constituents isn’t a problem – it’s a priority.

      Most people aren’t that lucky with their officials, so that’s why I suggest they call these candidates and get on them now.

  2. BobG says:

    There may also be quite a few who are not answering so they can claim plausible deniability later.

    “What questionnaire? I never got a questionnaire.”

    • Bitter says:

      That’s when I like to tell candidates that they should have received at least 1-2 more copies of it after the first time they refused to answer questions. :)

  3. Jacob says:

    You cannot assume that candidates who do not have a grade are blowing their constituents off. I’ve sent out 1000+ questionnaires over the years and get less than half back. Before assuming the worst of a candidate you need to consider the following:

    1. Thanks to years of gerrymandering and incumbent protection policies, a lot of candidates exist on paper only. They cannot be surveyed as there is no active campaign behind them.

    2. Not all candidates list a valid address with the board of elections. Mail sent to them gets returned.

    3. Not all candidates list contact information on their campaign literature or websites. You would think they’d be smart enough to do this but every cycle there’s a bumper crop of major party candidates who are too stupid to do this. These don’t get questionnaires sent to them.

    4. Campaigns rely a lot on volunteers and not all of them are very bright. When they get a questionnaire they don’t know what to do with it.

    5. Candidates, including those who are NRA members, aren’t necessarily that bright either. If they don’t get a questionnaire in the mail, they don’t bother to ask for one.

    • Bitter says:

      I do believe there’s a value in framing the issue as a refusal to answer constituents. If a handful on NRA members contacted campaigns and complained about their refusal to answer the questionnaire, then that would make a big impact in the perception of how many people are watching the issue.

      There can be problems, as I specifically illustrated with my own state representative. However, it was only when Sebastian and I called him out on it did he get on top of the issue. He has never held it against that voter at the polls or us for calling his attention to the problem of his non-response.

      • Jacob says:

        If you know for a fact that a candidate has received a questionnaire and refused to answer it by all means frame him as anti. However, experience tells me for the bulk of the ? candidates it is not a good assumption to call them anti.

  4. How do I find out if a candidate filled out the questionnaire? In particular my brother Bruce running in PA-33.

    • Bitter says:

      The grades are coming online a few states at a time, but Pennsylvania’s posted late yesterday. You can view them here. In the specific race, it would appear he’s running against an endorsed incumbent who has actually been the lead sponsor on many of our pro-rights bills. However, constituents wouldn’t know his grade anyway since it would appear he didn’t respond.

  5. Andy B. says:

    At one time, when I was in a position to do so, I was lobbying a state group to just give an unexplained grade of “F” to any candidate who failed to respond. My reasoning was (and to some extent, remains) that if I had failed to take a final exam in college, that would have been what was posted with the grades on the bulletin board; not my song and dance about my flat tire and late train. (Which is why I always checked my tires the night before a big exam, and caught a train at least an hour earlier than my usual.)

    Of course the “access” people who dream about being allowed someday to sit down with a legislator and receive his bullshit face-to-face, and with coffee nonetheless, would have none of such ideas.

    I didn’t analyze the pattern of non-returns as described, but is there any possibility that an organized NRA questionnaire boycott has been going on? I don’t want to digress to discussing the virtues (or not) of GOA, but around Y2K some of the legislators from western PA, who had our western regional RKBA groups in their pockets, organized a GOA boycott, because GOA wasn’t in their pockets; asked hard questions; then objectively reported the answers. The western groups sided with the peeved legislators, rather than with other, harder-line RKBA groups. But, the boycott seemed to fall apart after one cycle or so.

    That is only an illustrative example to ask, could something like that be going on here, quietly?

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