Candidate surveys are considered one of the banes of campaigning.

Special-interest groups naturally submit questions concerning their special interests.

Doctor groups want to know if you will protect the lower leg from encroachment by podiatrists; plastic surgeons want to know if you will continue to limit dentist's to working only inside the mouth; the dentists want to make sure that dental assistants don't set up independent shops that will eventually morph into a competing dental profession.

The psychiatrists want to know if you will protect their practices from the psychologists; and the psychologists want to know if you will protect their bread and butter from the marriage and family counselors.

The schoolteachers want to know if you will give them a blank check (which in their estimation is not enough); the firefighters want to know if you are going to disturb their sleeping on duty; while the police unions want you to keep those pesky reservists from encroaching on their active duty roles.

Of course, when surveys are from friendly groups, candidates are anxious to fill them out and get them in the mail to start the love (and money) flowing as soon as possible.

But if the survey comes from a profession about which the candidate has zero knowledge, say the undertakers, further research requires time the candidate does not have.

And who wants to do the spadework to dig up the information on the cemetery business anyway?

Once the surveys are filled out, the results are published to the various memberships, which then rely on the results to guide their selection of candidates to shower with money and votes.

When a survey is from "the other side" e.g. a group whose views are antithetical to your own incredibly just philosophical wisdom, the tendency is to toss the survey document into the trash on the logic of "why sign your own death warrant?"

Or, if you feel very strongly about them, not responding effectively tells that group to "file this survey where the sun does not shine."

Whatever your motivation, when that particular survey is published and you have not responded, beside your name and under the questions will appear the letters "NR" for "not responding."

Since politics is the art of addition of support rather than the subtraction thereof, not filling out the survey leaves the reader in the dark about where the candidate stands.

The candidate hopes for the benefit of the doubt.

While not responding solves an immediate problem for the candidate, it creates a larger long-term issue because failing to have the courage to respond speaks volumes about the candidate's character.

Smart politicians know that the public is basically fair. And while they may not agree on every issue, they do prefer courageous leadership more than the equivocating, vacillating "flip floppers" who substantially populate the higher reaches of our public offices to the despair of us all.

If a candidate does not know what he feels about further regulating bail bondsmen or CPA's then he/she should demonstrate what sort of an elected official they will be by finding out.

With that background in mind, I was interested to read the "Family Values Voter Information Guide" handed out at the Fairbanks Horizon Christian Fellowship Church where we were recently visiting with friends.

People who care about "family values" have as much right to query candidates and then vote their consciences in regard to the announced posture of the candidates as union operatives have to tell their membership to vote for every socialist.

The Family Values Voter Information Guide posed six statements to the candidates and asked them to agree or disagree.

The responses to the first statement were typical of all the rest.

The first statement was: "I will vote against any tax increase."

I happen to fully agree with that.

Every level of our government is in a fiscal crisis.

Raising further taxes is not the answer. That destroys the economy.

The three top candidates for governor who want to be commander in chief of our fighting national guard, appoint judges, run our prisons, and balance our budgets did not have the courage to answer that question.

Jerry Brown, NR, Steve Poizner, NR, Meg Whitman, NR. Gutless.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer was NR.

So were lieutenant governor candidates, Janice Hahn and Republican squish Abel Maldonado.

Controller candidates John Chiang and Tony Strickland were NR.

The candidates for state treasurer were NR, so were the candidates for attorney general, insurance commissioner, and board of equalization.

Unwillingness to answer the simple question ran across party lines.

Senior Republicans Mark Wyland, Nathan Fletcher, Darrell Issa and Brian Bilbray refused to answer.

The Republicans were not alone. They were joined in their pigeon-hearted stance by nearly every single Democratic candidate.

Many of the candidates did answer honestly. I only wish I had this survey before I sent in my absentee ballot last week.

As the Comte de Maistre is quoted as saying: "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'il merite."

Personally, I think we deserve much better.

Stirling, a former U.S. Army officer, has been elected to the San Diego City Council, state Assembly and state Senate. He also served as a municipal and superior court judge in San Diego. Send comments to Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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local attorney 8:37pm June 11, 2010

"I will vote against ANY tax increase." Unlike you, I think it's ridiculous for a politician to make that promise. Of course taxes in California are too high, but to say that one would never make any change in the tax code? Any politician who promises that will have to break his promise eventually. There are too many unknowns.