Some candidates avoid taking
By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
Sept. 28, 2003
A young girl answered the phone one night last week, said the legislative candidate I was looking for wasn't home and added she didn't know when he would be back.
But this is important, I said. The candidate hasn't returned an issue questionnaire that the newspaper sent him earlier this month.
Silence. A television in the background blared the Southern Miss-Nebraska football game. Then she suddenly responded: "Sorry, I can't help you."
But this is urgent, I pleaded. Do you have a way to contact him? Can you take a message for him? Do you have a cell phone number where he can be reached?
Seconds later surprise! The legislative candidate miraculously and suddenly appeared at home and answered the phone: "Can I help you?"
That exchange is just one example of the disdain and lack of respect for voters that some candidates have this year as they run for state and local office.
They want to hold public office. They want to help make decisions that will affect thousands of people for years and possibly the rest of their lives.
But whatever you do, don't dare talk to them one-on-one. And if you do, don't even think about asking their stand on high-profile issues like taxes and public schools.
Do they support raising state income, sales and gambling taxes? Do they back funding public education at the start of each annual legislative session?
Good luck finding answers. Some candidates don't want to say anything including participating in the issue survey from The Meridian Star.
The Star mailed detailed questionnaires in June and again early this month to candidates running for state, legislative and county office.
The paper will publish the responses later next month. Candidates who failed to submit a completed survey by the specified deadline were called by phone and asked if they planned to participate.
Here's where it became interesting. Candidates gave excuses that sounded like they were reliving their high school, or even grammar school, days.
Some responses included: "I didn't know we were supposed to answer those questions." "Was there a deadline?" "I haven't checked my mail in weeks."
But, perhaps, the most telling response came from a longtime state legislator who was contacted last week and asked if he planned to answer the survey.
But what about issues that might surface when the Legislature meets again in January for its annual session? With state finances weak, will you back a tax increase?
But at least this legislator answered the phone and tried to explain his reason for snubbing the survey even though it was admittedly weak.
The candidate who wasn't supposed to be home but actually was said he'd have to look through a stack of mail to find the survey. When he did, he'd call back.
By the way, did he know that the person who originally answered the phone said he wasn't there?