Candidates running in the 2011 gubernatorial race have aired ads across Kentucky stressing their toughness in recent weeks, and now a non-profit group is putting their political courage to the test. The non-partisan group Project Vote Smart is sending Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, Republican David Williams and independent Gatewood Gailbrath its Political Courage Test this Wednesday to gauge their views on a number of issues.
Founded by a group of bi-partisan national leaders, the Montana-based non-profit organization researches the voting records, campaign contributions and public statements of more than 40,000 candidates and elected officials.
Vote Smart spokeswoman Carly Griffin says the surveys are meant to ask tough questions and survey topics specific to the commonwealth on education, government spending and taxation policy.
“Basically our purpose in this test is to provide as much information for the voters as we can. And a lot of times candidates can stick behind tested messages and not necessarily give real answers on real questions,” she says. “Bottom line: Project Vote Smart is here to help the voter.”
Statistics show gubernatorial candidates tend to answer Vote Smart surveys less often than those seeking other elected offices. In the 2007 gubernatorial race between Beshear and then-Governor Ernie Fletcher, neither candidate responded to the survey.
To encourage their participation, candidates are forbidden to use the results of the survey in campaign advertisements against their opponents. The non-profit group believes voters aren’t being informed by politicians giving tested remarks.
“That’s why we use the Political Courage Test as a way to potentially counter this trend. We want candidates to be talking about their issue positions because we want voters to have access to this information, period,” Griffin says. “We’re asking straight questions and they can either answer yes or no and they can also elaborate on their answers. We’re really giving them no reason why they shouldn’t be submitting,” she says.
The deadline for the campaigns to return the survey is October 5.