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West Virginia Candidates for Governor Lack Courage

15 September 2011
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GREAT DIVIDE RANCH, MT., September 15, 2011 - Project Vote Smart released the 2011 Political Courage Test results today for West Virginia's gubernatorial candidates showing both major party candidates refused to answer even the most basic issue related questions addressed in the Test. Among candidates Bob Henry Baber, Harry Bertram, Marla Ingels, Bill Maloney, and incumbent Earl Tomblin, and following repetitious requests by mail, fax, and e-mail including contacts from key leaders of their own parties, Bertram and Ingels were the only candidates to demonstrate courage by answering voter's key questions. For two decades, the Political Courage Test has asked all candidates one central question: "Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face if elected?" Candidates who reply "yes" to that question are presented with several issue categories in which they are asked to indicate support for given principles, or reply using their own language entirely. West Virginia candidates' unwillingness to provide voters with their issue positions is part of a growing national trend among candidates, as Test response rates have steadily fallen from a high of seventy-two percent (72%) in 1996, to an all-time low of thirty-eight percent (38%) in 2010. Project Vote Smart has found that party leaders and consultants from both major parties advise candidates not to respond to the Test for two primary reasons: it will limit the candidates' ability to control their campaign messages and it will expose them to opposition research. "When candidates decide to hide behind talking points and manipulative campaign tactics, they are contributing to a deliberate dumbing down of the American electorate," said Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart President. "When you keep your opponent in the dark, you keep the voter there as well." The Political Courage Test is a collaborative effort between the Project and over 200 political scientists, journalists, and leaders from across the political spectrum, speaking to the Test's unmatched neutrality and objectivity. Research indicates that issue areas addressed in the Test are of crucial concern to voters and most likely to come up in the next legislative session as determined by polling data, the majority, minority and third party platforms, State of the Union and Response speeches, State of the State and Response speeches, and legislative agendas. Sample questions on the 2011 Test include:
  • Education Issues - Should illegal immigrants who graduate from West Virginia high schools be eligible for in-state tuition at public universities?
  • Gun Issues - Do you support requiring background checks on all firearms sales at gun shows, including sales by unlicensed dealers?
  • Health Issues - Do you support requiring individuals to purchase health care insurance?
  • Social Issues - Do you support same-sex marriage?
View the complete 2011 West Virginia Gubernatorial Political Courage Test. For Political Courage Test results and more factual data on each candidate including voting records, public statements, interest group ratings and more, visit Project Vote Smart's website (www.votesmart.org) or speak with our researchers via the toll-free Voter's Research Hotline (1-888-VOTE SMART). About Project Vote Smart: Founded by 40 national leaders such as Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, Vote Smart researches the voting records, backgrounds, issue positions, campaign contributions, interest group ratings, and public statements of more than 40,000 candidates and elected officials. This information, as well as ballot measures and voter registration information is available through www.votesmart.org, the Voter's Research Hotline (1-888-VOTE SMART), free publications (U.S. Government Owner's Manual), and the new VoteEasy interactive application. Inaugurated in 1992, Project Vote Smart is non-partisan and nonprofit in mission, and is funded entirely by foundation grants and individual contributions.

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