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Candidates steer clear of Project Vote Smart

CARSON CITY — What do Harry Reid, Sharron Angle, Rory Reid and Brian Sandoval have in common?

They all failed to respond to Project Vote Smart’s questionnaire on how they stand on 12 issues in their campaigns.

In fact, Republican Kenneth Wegner, challenger for Shelley Berkley’s seat in the 1st Congressional District, was the only major party candidate to fill out the questionnaire among the 10 candidates for U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and governor’s seats. No incumbent state legislators responded to Project Vote Smart’s questionnaire, although a handful of their challengers did.

Nevada isn’t unusual, said Adelaide Kimball, a senior adviser for Project Vote Smart.

She said only 41 percent of congressional candidates nationwide in 2008 responded to the questionnaire, compared to 72 percent in 1996.

"They are being warned by political consultants not to speak out on issues," she said. "They are clamming up because their consultants only want them to talk about issues that are good for them.

Project Vote Smart is a research organization that collects information on candidates and public officials for dissemination to the public. It was founded in 1992 by 40 national leaders, including former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford and Republican presidential candidates Barry Goldwater and John McCain.

Kimball said her nonpartisan organization only wants to inform voters so they can vote for candidates closest to their political philosophies.

"We want to allow the person with limited time to check the candidates’ records," she said.

Although most candidates did not cooperate, Project Vote Smart tried to find out where they stood on issues by checking the voting records of incumbents in Congress and following the published statements made by candidates.

The organization also checked how state legislators voted on issues in 2009 and listed how they ranked in pro-business group, environment and other special interest groups studies.

In addition, a Vote Easy button on Project Vote Smart’s website allows voters to click on specific issues, such as abortion, gun control, immigration, taxes and Social Security, to find out the positions of congressional candidates.

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