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Choosing questions

Some states, Washington and Oregon for two, develop statewide and localized voter guides which include information about the candidates for office, and information from the candidates – campaign statements and so on – included as well. They can be helpful assists to voting.

Idaho doesn’t have such a publication, but it does have this primary season something called the Gem State Voter guide, published by a collection of very conservative groups – Idaho Values Alliance (conservative Christian, led by Bryan Fischer) , Education Excellence Idaho (principally backing charter, private and home school options), Idahoans for Tax Reform (an anti-tax group, led by Laird Maxwell), This House is My Home (another Maxwell group, aimed at undercutting land use planning), and Idaho Chooses Life (anti-abortion, led by David Ripley). Word is that their voter guide will be distributed through churches and allied organizations around Idaho.

What’s interesting in these surveys is both the nature of questions asked, and who responds, and how.

In this survey – in the range of questions posed to candidates, which understandably vary somewhat from office to office – some subjects are addressed in detail, while quite a few other fields are skipped. You’ll not find much here about economic issues (aside from taxes and property rights), environmental matters (though salmon and dam breaching are referenced briefly), education, health, law, crime and the judiciary (except where they touch on sex-related or religious matters).

What’s in? Here are some of the questions posed to candidates for the Republican nominatiom for Idaho’s 1st U.S. House seat (in the form of support or oppose the proposition):

Amend U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman
Vigorous prosecution of obscenity laws
Ban abortions except to save the life of the mother
Parental consent for underage girls to get an abortion
Woman to receive an ultrasound picture of her unborn baby before an abortion
Require women to receive thorough information about abortion risks and development of unborn child before an abortion
Federal ban on all human cloning, including embryonic stem cell research
Return control of education to state and local government
Teach the Bible as literature and history in public schools
Abstinence-only sex education in public schools
Education tax credits to expand parental choice in education
Post Ten Commandments on public property
Impeachment of judges who exceed their Constitutional authority
Protect right of chaplains to pray according to their convictions
Retain “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance
Continue property tax exemption for churches
Continue right of churches to address public policy issues without losing tax exempt status
Continue right of churches to distribute non-partisan voter guides
Elimination of all budget earmarks
Reduce government spending rather than raise taxes
Reduce welfare programs
Pledge not to raise taxes, fees or rates
Freeze federal spending for non-defense outlays
Simplify the IRS Code with a flat income tax
Social Security choice of investing in individual retirement accounts for younger workers
Federal Balanced Budget Amendment
“Just compensation” for home and property owners when government land regulations reduce property values
Allow teaching man is a created being, not an evolved being
Allow teaching Ten Commandments is the foundation of western law
Allow teaching man’s law should be consistent with God’s law
Allow teaching basic rights are a gift of God, not government
Allow teaching the proper role of government is to protect rights given to man by God
Legal use of firearms as a defense against criminals, without fear of being prosecuted or sued
Allow convenience store workers to carry firearms behind the counter
Law-abiding citizen’s right to carry a concealed weapon

Of the six candidates for the nomination, Sheila Sorensen and Robert Vasquez did not respond. (Sorensen presumably figured the crowd that gets and uses this guide isn’t her natural constituency; Vasquez’ reasoning is a little less clear. Nor did most of the few Democrats cited in the report respond.) The other four – Skip Brandt, Bill Sali, Norm Semanko and Keith Johnson – all said (according to the guide) they were in support of every one of the propositions in the list above.

Realizing that, you might want to review the list above one more time.

All of them also said they were opposed to:

Homosexual adoption of children
Taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood
Physician assisted suicide
Use of eminent domain for economic purposes
“Sexual orientation” language in hate crimes legislation
Casino gambling on Indian lands
Internet gambling

The degree of unanimity on all of these issues, pro and con – a few these topics may represent broad consensus but most are true hot buttons – is striking.

The four candidates did split on a few issues. On “Remove jurisdiction from the U.S. Supreme Court over religious liberty issues,” Brandt said he opposed, Johnson declined to say, and Semanko and Sali said they were in favor. On “Line item veto for the president,” Brandt said he opposed, Sali was undecided, while Johnson and Semanko said they were in favor. Interestingly, on “Abolish the IRS and replace with a national sales tax,” Sali was the one undecided while the other three were in favor.

Still, whatever you conclude from all this, the survey throws a bright light on these candidates. And suggests some followup questions, as well, in the short stretch of campaign season remaining.

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