Leading up to our Endorsement Issue in mid-October, the Source has been conducting interviews with candidates for various offices, from city council to U.S. senate. In the lead-up to that issue, we have been making a concerted effort to provide the most comprehensive election coverage in Central Oregon—and strongly believe we have done so. For the past several issues, each week we have presented unadulterated interviews with candidates. We hope that information helps voters form informed opinions about the candidates. But perhaps just as telling as the candidates’ answers to our questions has been the very process of setting up those interviews.
For example, we did not even need to reach out to the Republican gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson. His campaign managers proactively contacted us and requested an interview, and we had a smart and insightful conversation with him, which we ran as a full page of his answers. Moreover, we were impressed that his staff promptly followed up with phone calls to see if there was anything else we needed.
In contrast, getting in touch with Gov. John Kitzhaber has been about as challenging as pinning down an interview with J.D. Salinger. In an effort to offer him the same space in our newspaper that we gave to Richardson, we spent a couple weeks reaching out to his campaign. But just to get contact information for his press officer, we had to do some serious networking. His campaign website lists only a generic email address, and a phone number that went straight to voicemail every time we called. With no responses through those channels (and pressed against deadlines), we reached out to a dozen persons we knew might be remotely connected to the campaign. We called the Governor’s press office (and left a voicemail).
We contacted friends and associates working for the National Democratic Party and at high levels in the Governor’s office, and posted notes on Facebook. It took a few days, but eventually we received a phone call giving us a cell phone number where, in turn, we left a message (which had no greeting to indicate we had even reached the right person). Eventually, that phone call led to an email address for the press officer, to whom we immediately sent a questionnaire, and also requested notification if our deadline could not be met. That deadline came and went. Later, after press time, we got a call apologizing for the lack of communication. Finally, after nearly three weeks, we received back the Q&A in time for this issue (see page 7).
And Kitzhaber’s campaign is not the only one that is difficult to reach. Our emails and calls to Congressman Greg Walden’s campaign and office have gone completely unanswered, and senatorial challenger Monica Wehby, after initially scheduling an interview with us, canceled just a couple hours before the time arrived, while Sen. Jeff Merkeley’s campaign office offered us a few minutes to speak with him between fundraiser appearances in town.
We should note, though, that election season has not been all frustrations. In fact, most local candidates have been easy to work with, with special nods to both state representative candidates Knute Beuhler and Craig Wilhelm, who have been extremely responsive and forthcoming.
Point being: Yes, we certainly understand that running a campaign, especially a statewide one, is difficult. But we believe that a campaign should not be a one-way conversation—with only TV ads speaking to us. It should be a dialogue. And, moreover, to us, how a candidate runs a campaign seems indicative of how he or she will run the office. And, in that equation, we believe that access and transparency are valuable components.