How Texpatriate is going to do 2014 interviews

Last year, we started our “Interviews” series for municipal elections, a tradition continued earlier this year for primary elections. The title –interviews– is a bit of a misnomer, harkening back to an original (admittedly naive) intention to have in-person conversations with the candidates. Given that the members of this Editorial Board are spread throughout the country, this was quickly deemed infeasible, and replaced with a series of online questionnaires, styled with the ambitious euphemism of “electronic interview.” The name stuck, so we keep using it, even though no reasonable person would call this process an honest interview. Not only do we submit open-ended questions to every candidate, we actively encourage both outside research and deliberations with staff.

This is because Texpatriate has a bad rap among some politicians, particularly those on the right side of the aisle. We are a site replete with opinions, and we freely concede that those opinions are –more often than not– from a roughly Democratic perspective. Because of this fact, this board has taken great lengths to compile a questionnaire that is more informational than partisan. We focus, particularly with the downballot races, on questions that explain what the offices do rather than flashpoint disputes or editorializing.

Our philosophy is that society is bettered if a candidate for judicial office capably explains what her or his office does in conjunction with the public. Not so much when it comes to squabbles over broad platitudes and social issues. The responses we receive will be printed verbatim. No editorializing. No proofreading.

This neutral approached has allowed us to publish questionnaires from a broad array of public servants, on both sides of aisle. Whether this has been Mayor Annise Parker or Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, we take pleasure in sharing a candidate’s point-of-view with our readers in an unadulterated fashion.

Last year, we created seven different questionnaires, providing slightly different questions based on the perspective of the candidate (incumbent, challenger or open seat) as well as the office being sought. For the primaries, we simply asked every candidate the same eight questions. This election, we have decided to employ the detailed process used last year for the plethora of candidates on the ballot this November. Accordingly, we have created 48 unique questionnaires, all with 10-13 queries. Like the municipal questionnaires, these differentiate based on office sought and candidate perspective. Given that there are over 100 candidates up and down the ballot for the average resident of Harris County, the questionnaire-building process was predictably onerous.

These questions will be sent out to each and every one of these candidates who is on the ballot. This includes all registered candidates of the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green parties. Our one condition is being able to find an email address for the candidate. If you are a candidate on the ballot and you find yourself without a questionnaire, please contact us. We will send you a form that we will publish (once completed), along with a written apology.

After much consideration, it was decided best by this board to not interview or issue endorsements –as a general rule– for contests outside of Harris County, given that the bulk of the readership hails specifically from Houston.

We will begin publishing completed questionnaires shortly after we begin to receive them, though we will delay publication at the request of the candidate to a more suitable date. We humbly ask that questionnaires be submitted by the end of the month, though we will certainly still publish those submitted afterwards. It is our intention to begin the endorsement process at the midpoint of September, and while non-completion of a questionnaire certainly does not preclude anyone from the possibility of an endorsement, we often find the questionnaire an invaluable resource in coming to a decision. At the time of the questionnaire submission, if any candidate wishes to tell us anything else, we will publish all he or she wishes to publish, and take under private advisement anything he or she does not want us to publish.

Lastly, we have decided to email all 48 questionnaire forms to the candidates, with specific instructions as to which form to complete. Last year, multiple candidates expressed concern with the idea of sending different questions to different candidates. These concerns will largely placated once it was explained that the differences stemmed from differing candidate perspective (e.g., it would not make sense to ask an incumbent if he believed the incumbent had failed). In order to avoid such concerns, and in a spirit of openness, we will be sharing all of our forms with all of our candidates.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the board.

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