WASHINGTON -- For 16 years, Project Vote Smart, a national nonpartisan organization that wants to inform voters about candidates' stands on the issues, has sent out questionnaires to political hopefuls. Some respond, and some don't.
This year, the two candidates who hope to succeed retiring Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, Republican Christopher J. Lee and Democrat Alice Kryzan elected not to fill out the Vote Smart questionnaire, despite repeated requests from the respected organization.
Those two candidates, VoteSmart said, "repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on the issues through the 2008 Political Courage Test when asked to do so by national leaders of the political parties, prominent members of the media, Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimlball and Project Vote Smart staff."
Whether the candidates decided to avoid answering questions ranging from their positions on gay marriage to taxation because they are in a close race is anybody's guess. However, two incumbent Democrats who appear to be headed to re-election, Reps. Brian Higgins of Buffalo and Louise Slaughter of Fairport, provided thorough answers to the quiz.
Their answers and those of hundreds of other candidates may be found at www.votesmart.org. However, here is a sample of Higgins' and Slaughter's views.
Higgins favors laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons, supports universal health care, opposes any more free trade agreements, is against giving the government any more power to evesdrop on the conversations of ordinary citizens, and wants a prompt withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Higgins would maintain existing rates for capital gains and corporate income taxes, and would marginally cut the capital gains tax, but opposes repeal of the estate tax. He would support abortion in the case of rape or incest and where the mother's life is endangered.
Slaughter opposes any limits on women's right to an abortion, and she opposes any restrictions on same-sex marriage. She would increase the estate tax. She opposes the death penalty for a federal crime, and would increase restrictions on the sale and possession of firearms.
On Iraq, Slaughter said: "I believe we must have concrete deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible and we must focus our efforts to fight the war on terror in Afganistan."
Higgins' Republican opponent, Daniel J. Hummiston, ignored the questionnaire. But Conservative candidate Harold "Bud" Schroeder filled out the questionnaire, reflecting his strong support for gun rights and increasing tax exemptions for medical expenses.
Rep. John R. "Randy" Kuhl Jr., R-Hammondsport, is locked in a tight rematch with his 2006 Democratic opponent, Eric J. Massa of Corning. Neither of them filled out the questionnaire. Nor did Slaughter's Republican challenger, David W. Crimmen. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader filled it out, but Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain and Libertarian Bob Barr Jr. didn't.