Project Vote Smart released the 2008 Illinois and Maryland Political Courage Test results today showing that only seven percent of the Illinois' primary candidates for State Legislature and fifteen percent of the state's primary candidates for Congress were willing to answer questions on the issues that are of top concern to Illinois voters, such as questions regarding hate crime legislation, the employment of undocumented immigrants, the possible constitutional convention, the death penalty, access to health care and the licensing of gun possession. Maryland candidates were slightly more willing to give voters information about their positions on issues that are critical to voters. Twenty-six percent of candidates for Congress were willing to give voters this information.
Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart's President, said that national response rates for federal and state candidates have fallen dramatically over the last three elections.
The Political Courage Test asks all candidates one central question: "Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face on their behalf?" It is conducted nationally over the last 12 months of each election season. Illinois legislative and Congressional candidates were contacted repeatedly over three weeks and asked by prominent leaders of both major parties and by Project staff, if they were willing to provide their issue inclinations in the public interest.
Candidates advancing to the general election will have the opportunity to respond to the test again, when tested later this year.
Since 2000, Project Vote Smart has found that party leaders and consultants are advising candidates not to respond to the Political Courage Test for two primary reasons: it will limit the candidates' ability to control their campaign messages, and it will expose them to opposition research.
Kimball counters this cynical attitude. "If candidates are afraid of letting their opponents know where they stand on key issues, how can they possibly let the voters know how they will handle the job if they are hired? Candidates have lost sight of who their prospective employers are. One campaign consultant told us, âIt's not our job to educate--it's our job to win."
The Political Courage Test has been created, designed, and drafted by more than 200 of the nation's most prominent journalists, political scientists, and leaders of the major and third political parties.
The results of the Test for Maryland candidates can be found HERE
The results of the Test for Illinois congressional candidates can be found HERE
The results of the Test for Illinois state senate candidates can be found HERE
The results of the Test for Illinois state house candidates can be found HERE
You can find more information about the Political Courage Test HERE