I can't remember if I've told you this story before but Select A Candidate has been the most successful interactive tool we've ever developed at Minnesota Public Radio and it's one of the most sought-after codes among many other media Web sites around the country.
I started it with help from some of the smarter MPR folks -- past and present -- about 6 years ago for a couple of reasons. (1) Mainstream media tends not to cover "marginal candidates" so you can size them up and
because of #1 (2) voters end up voting for people because their name is Anderson, or Johansen or whatever. That's a massive failure.
At the same time, we were developing these robust candidate sites on MPR.org (guess who the first media or Web site was to interview and present the views of an unknown accountant named Mark Kennedy?), but nobody was finding them. Nobody was reading about them and when nobody finds them or reads about 'em...well... Anderson it is.
So we came up with the idea of Select A Candidate to make it more interesting -- dare I say: fun? -- for people to get to know the candidates. With Select A Candidate you take a quiz asking you your opinion on a set of issues (I like to keep it around 12-15), hit SUBMIT and then see a stacked list of the order of all candidates and how they matched you. You'll also see a cumulative list of how all the candidates stacked up with everyone taking the quiz
(it's a poor man's poll but you hard-core candidate supporters can forget about trying to up the score for your candidate. It won't work that way). And you can see what issues are driving the electorate.
And the key is once the voter's appetite is whetted, each candidate's name links to a very robust Web page on Campaign 2006 (in this case) dedicated to information about that candidate. More informed voters make more informed decisions and that's all to the good.
I hope to have the first Select A Candidate survey -- this one for governor -- out next week, and the Senate version thereafter.
The new version is powered by a terrific new administrative interface developed by Andy Beger, an absolute genius, in MPR's Information Technology Department (and, yes, this is where that membership money goes and how it comes back to you and serves the public. I'm glad Andy works for us. He's also the brains behind Votetracker.) We can build them faster and now we can better document in bibliographical format, the positions of politicians.
There's still some work to do and this is a good time for you to get involved. In the interest of transparency, here's the quiz, so far, for the governor's race. Add to it, modify it with your suggestions, make corrections.
1. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would define marriage -- or its legal equivalent -- as between one man and one woman only?
2. Do you support or oppose an increase in the state's gasoline tax to pay for transportation projects in Minnesota?
3. Which of the following statements most closely matches your view on the issue of health care in Minnesota?
4. Do you favor or oppose repealing the so-called concealed-carry law in Minnesota?
5. Which of the following statements most closely matches your vision for K-12 education in Minnesota?
6. When it comes to building new stadiums for the Vikings, Twins, and/or Gophers, what is your opinion?
7. Do you support or oppose efforts to constitutionally dedicate a portion of sales-tax receipts to several areas, including natural resources and cultural projects in Minnesota?
8. Do you support efforts to constitutionally dedicate motor vehicle sales tax revenue to transportation projects (it is now split between the General Fund and transportation)?
9. Do you support or oppose a statewide ban on smoking?
10. Do you consider an increase in sales or income taxes to be "in the mix" to balance the state's budget if necessary?
11. Which of the following statements most closely matches your view on immigration policies in Minnesota?
12. Which of the following statements most closely matches your view on job creation and economic development in Minnesota?
And here's the quiz, so far, for the Senate candidates. Please note, I have not finished coming up with questions for this race. So input away!
1. Which statement most closely matches your opinion on U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq?
2. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment definining marriage as only between one man and one woman?
3. Should tax cuts given in the last few years be made permanent?
4. Do you favor or support a balanced budget process that eliminates deficit spending?
5. Which of the following most closely aligns with your position on abortion?
6. Which of the following health care statements most closely aligns with your view?
7. Do you believe military force is an option to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?
8. What is your opinion of the CAFTA trade agreement?
9. Which of the following statements most closely aligns with your view on the federal education program, "No Child Left Behind."
10. What is your position on agriculture in Minnesota?
Obviously, we can't get to every issue that may come up in the campaign. We're just trying to introduce the candidates to voters.
Now, the hard part of all of this is getting firm answers for candidates. As I've said before, when you hear an answer that starts with "we need to..." you usually don't get an answer, you get a stump speech. Answers that start with "and I'll accomplish this by..." are much better. Some politicians hate that. In 2004, I sent letters to every sitting lawmaker asking their position on 10 issues. You can go back and see how many thought it was important enough to respond. And a handful of those sent letters criticizing my even asking. Yep, wouldn't want a position on an issue to get in the way of a campaign. But I digress.
At present, these are the missing answers for each candidate. If you see a printed or audio item of record that answers it, send it along.
Doran - None
Hatch - 8,9
Hutchinson - 7,8,9,12
Jeffers -- All but 9 (I'm working on that one today)
Lourey - 7,8,9
Pawlenty - 7,8, 12*
Bell -- None
Kennedy -- 7, 10
Klobuchar -- 2
Uldrich - All
Fitzgerald - All
Cavlan - All but 1
Shudlick - All
Hope you enjoy the final product. Help build it.
Oh, one point because these things should be -- and are here -- stated up front. When you take the quiz, we collect no data other than 0s and 1s and we determine your IP so we can block the effect of taking the quiz more than once on the cumulative results. We don't care who you are. We only care that you're getting access to the information you want.
Posted at 2:40 PM on March 10, 2006
by Bob Collins
On Monday, Midmorning's going to take a look at Iraqi war veterans as candidates in this fall's election. Nearly 100 veterans are running for congressional seats in the 2006 election. Midmorning looks at why these soldier-candidates have hit the campaign trail in numbers not seen in more than 50 years.
GUEST: Burdett Loomis, professor of political science at the University of Kansas. He joins us by phone from Lawrence, Kansas.
GUEST (9:00-9:30): Van Taylor, a Republican running for congress in the 17th district in Texas.
GUEST: Jon Soltz, Executive Director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America political action committee. He joins us by phone from his office in New York.
I should probably leave this topic to Mike Mulcahy, who is way smarter than I'll ever be on matters of politics at the Capitol, but for someone who spends a lot of time trying to document the positions of lawmakers (since they'll run a campaign at some point in the future), I'm growing more frustrated by the lack of roll call votes in committee.
OK, it's a selfish thing since I take care of the MPR Votetracker program, which allows people to see how pieces of legislation are doing and -- and this is where the campaign part of this comes in -- allows people to look at a legislator's page and see, instantly, where they stand on the issues.
Easy enough, right? Wrong. Today, for example, I was working up a datasheet for a bill that probably is going nowhere -- HF 3099 -- which would allow online wagering. I was interested primarily because the bill died on a tie vote (which indicates something resembling a roll call) and then, the committee reconvened, a legislator moved for reconsideration, and then it passed on a voice vote.
OK? Who changed? And why? Who are the people who are for it? Who are the ones against it?
Rep. Duke Powell's committee did the same thing a few days ago on a pretty interesting bill -- the one allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs they find morally wrong. Good luck trying to find out how the members of the House Health Policy and Finance Committee feel about the bill in an instant. They threw it up for a voice vote too.
A big task force trying to figure out how to ungum the works at the Capitol came out with a report a few weeks ago. It mostly involved raising salaries and letting 'em all get a drink together sometime (alright, maybe it didn't include the last part).
But for all the laws being proposed around this state in the last few years, here's one I've never heard proposed: if you're an elected politician and you take part in a vote, your position is recorded, for all to see, and voters to evaluate.
I'm sure someone has a good reason why a legislator's position ought to be secret until a floor vote. I'm sure anxious to hear it.