I have sent (via email) the survey below to the campaigns of both Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton, the 2018 Democratic and Republican candidates (respectively) for governor of Colorado.
[September 10 Update: On August 20, Polis’s communications director emailed me to say Polis would not reply to my questions. I never heard back from Walker Stapleton or anyone on his campaign team.]
I released a draft of the survey earlier on Facebook, where several people expressed skepticism that the candidates would reply. That many voters automatically expect the typical candidate not to reply to tough questions—to intentionally conceal some of their relevant political views from the voting public—is a sad commentary on the state of American politics.
True, many big-dollar advocacy groups play “gotcha” games with out-of-context quotes and guilt by association. But this should not prevent the rest of us, including the candidates, from having serious conversations about the policies over which the winning candidate will have substantial influence.
I therefore call on both Polis and Stapleton to answer the tough questions that voters, including me, put to them, even if doing so makes them uncomfortable.
If voters can’t even trust candidates to honestly answer tough questions, how can we trust them to honestly govern? I suggest that candidates who cannot or will not answer the tough questions should find a different occupation.
For example, voters have a right to know whether Polis wants to ban any additional guns or gun accessories, and voters have a right to know whether Stapleton wants to impose additional restrictions on abortion. (I included questions on those issues precisely because, to my knowledge, the candidates have not yet articulated their positions on such matters in any detail.)
Because I do (intentionally) include uncomfortable questions for both candidates, I wish that there were a good way to make the deal both-or-nothing: I publish replies from both candidates or else neither. I even though about possible language to that effect. But then a candidate potentially could game the survey by “answering” in an ambiguous, non-responsive way. So I think the only thing to do is to request that each candidate answer the survey sincerely, and trust that voters will give them credit for addressing tough issues.
The ball is now in your hands, Polis and Stapleton. I urge you to score one for political integrity by answering the following survey.
Colorado Governor Candidate Survey
Dear Messrs. Polis and Stapleton,
Below please find a set of survey questions relevant to this year’s governor’s race. I have sought to create an evenhanded set of questions that, although hardly comprehensive, will help to clarify some of your important views and positions for Colorado voters. I will publish the results (complete and unedited) at the Colorado Freedom Report (FreeColorado.com). I’m setting a deadline for replies of August 26; I will post responses as soon as I get them as my schedule allows.
1. Is there any type of gun or gun accessory that Colorado civilians can now legally purchase for which you would like to ban either the sale or the possession, either at the state or at the federal level? If yes, please specify (including whether you are talking about a ban on sales or a ban on possession).
2. Is there any Colorado-specific restriction (or restrictions) on guns or gun ownership that you would like to repeal? If yes, please specify.
3. Is there any form of a law that you would support that permits the disarming of a person deemed to be a threat to self or others, if that person has not been convicted of a criminal offense? If yes, please specify, with an emphasis on what due-process provisions you favor.
ABORTION AND BIRTH CONTROL
4. Do you favor any additional legal restrictions on abortion? If yes, please specify what restrictions you favor and what criminal penalties you favor for violations.
5. Do you favor the repeal of any existing legal restrictions on abortion? If yes, please specify.
6. Do you favor making hormonal birth control available without a prescription?
7. What is your definition of a “sanctuary city” with respect to immigration, and what you think the governor’s role should be regarding “sanctuary cities”?
8. Do you support any proposal that would allow a state (in conjunction with the federal government) to determine the number of immigrants allowed to work in that state? If yes, please specify.
9. Do you think that legal immigration should be reduced, expanded, or left the same? If you think that legal immigration should be reduced or expanded, please ballpark by how much. (I realize that this is a federal issue, but governors can play a substantial role in setting national policy agendas.)
10. Given that every person now alive certainly has at least some ancestors who were despicable villains, and given that it is unjust to judge an individual for the misdeeds of that person’s ancestors, do you hereby publicly condemn any and all efforts to smear a candidate for political office based on the misdeeds of that candidate’s ancestors? (Feel free to answer with a simple yes or no or to also explain your answer.)
11. What is your position on racism, and what are your thoughts on racism in contemporary America? (I realize that this question and the previous one are peculiar things to ask candidates for governor, but I trust that you both are aware of the state and national news stories that prompt me to ask them. I’m asking this question in an open-ended way, so feel free to reply as tersely or as fully as strikes you as appropriate).
12. I think many Colorado voters already have a good sense of your differences regarding such issues as energy, health care, and education. What do you think are the most important differences between you and your opponent, and why do you think those differences matter? (Please limit your answer to this one to five-hundred words, and fewer is fine.)
13. What is your opponent’s best quality and policy position?
14. What is the single additional question that you would most like your opponent to answer? (Once you send me your replies, I will send your question to your opponent as an addendum.)
Thank you for your time; I sincerely appreciate it.
Image of Jared Polis by Elaine Lewers; Image of Walker Stapleton by Jeffrey Beall