Politicians who decline to speak to the media do so at their own peril.
That Sioux Falls paper offered legislative candidates in fourteen southeast South Dakota districts the opportunity to submit bios and answers to three questions. Nine out of 77 candidates chose not to respond. On those nine, reporter Patrick Anderson heaps undisguised scorn:
…I just wanted to highlight the politicians who did not respond to interview requests, even as they seek office as a representative for you, the public.
They couldn’t be bothered to send an email or take a quick phone call. They weren’t willing to answer three quick questions, share their platform with you, the voter [Patrick Anderson, “These Political Candidates Won’t Talk,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.10.31].
The silent targets of Anderson’s scorn are…
- Rep. Arch Beal (R-12/Sioux Falls)
- Rep. Nancy Rasmussen (R-17/Hurley)
- Rep. Mike Stevens (R-18/Yankton)
- Mark Guthmiller (D-9/Sioux Falls)
- Ellee Spawn (D-13/Sioux Falls)
- Mike Myers (I-15/Sioux Falls)
- Debbie Pease (R-17/Centerville)
- David Allen (D-18/Yankton)*
- Peter Rossiter (D-18/Yankton)*
I’m tempted to give the Yankton candidates a pass: they have their own local daily paper and flagship radio station to get out their message. Rossiter, Allen, and Rep. Stevens participated in a candidate forum hosted by Yankton media on October 20 and a local Chamber forum on October 3 (what? Yankton holds two legislative forums, while Aberdeen, the Hub City, twice Yankton’s size, only hosts one? Come on, Aberdeen!) If those Yankton candidates have chosen to focus their energies on reaching local voters through local media… well, the wisdom of that choice is debatable.
But for the other six candidates, turning down free ink in their primary daily newspaper is a really bad idea. From a marketing perspective, a candidate should never miss an opportunity for positive publicity, especially when the only cost is sending copies of text that is probably already on one’s website and other campaign materials. From a principled perspective, candidates have a duty to communicate with the voters. The media have a duty to help us communicate with the voters. When the media comes knocking to do its duty, we candidates should do ours.
Correction 2016.11.02 10:20 CDT: I originally mistyped Allen’s and Rossiter’s party affiliation. They are Democrats… and I should know! I apologize to the two candidates for branding them with the wrong party label!