Ducking questions

There are congressional candidates on both sides of the aisle who refuse to reveal how they would vote on high-profile issues being discussed on Capitol Hill. 

The Hill last week identified a few of these House and Senate hopefuls, noting that the candidates have said they don’t need to announce every position before being elected. 

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Christine Vilsack (D), who will face Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) this fall, told the Ames Tribune that she looks forward, not backward.

“I don’t go back and try to figure out what I would have voted for,” she said after being pressed on President Obama’s healthcare law. 

Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), who is seeking to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) this fall, recently dodged a question posed by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on whether he supported legislation that would prevent an increase in student loans.

Some Republicans have ducked questions on whether they support Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget, while a few Democrats have declined to say whether they will endorse Obama’s bid for a second term. 

If candidates want to sidestep tough questions, that is their right. But it doesn’t play well.

It is also shortsighted. Candidates need to let voters know where they stand. And one way or the other, voters will find out, because you cannot get into high public office without debating your opponent(s). 

Some political pundits bemoaned the 20 Republican primary presidential debates that started last year. But without them, voters might not have learned the candidates’ positions on a range of issues, including immigration and tax reform. 

Politicians regularly complain about the media, saying news outlets are focused on salacious issues that the country doesn’t care about. They stress that they want to talk about policy, not gossip. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) made that point during several presidential debates, attracting applause from the audience.

Well, so be it. But that means politicians need to say where they stand on policy. Many now running for federal offices don’t reveal where they stand on thorny questions.

When he was running for the Senate last cycle, Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) clearly spelled out how he would vote on now-Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor (support) and Elena Kagan (oppose) and publicly explained his rationale.

Those positions brought barbs from left and right, but they provided voters with a clear view of how Toomey would go about his job in the upper chamber. Other candidates should be so clear.

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