We have of late been doing a series of interviews (by e-mail) with candidates for the twelve New Jersey congressional districts and (hopefully) the United States Senate seat. Bias is always possible in such situations, and the appearance of bias is similarly possible. Thus as there is no interview ready to post this week, it is worth taking a moment to explain how the interviews are arranged and conducted.
The one candidate who might be thought to have been given an advantage would be Yolanda Dentley; she is the inspiration for the entire series. At the time of her primary race there was almost nothing about her on the Internet, and the situation had not changed when we began preparing our (separate) series looking at the districts. Attempting to contact her for an interview seemed the best way to get that information, and so we sent her a message by Facebook on July sixteenth. She indicated her willingness to answer questions that same night, and the next day a set of questions was sent. There were a few communications delays, but her interview was completed and posted.
While we awaited her responses, it occurred to us that it might appear biased to interview one candidate, and it would be valuable to cover everyone in the field. That would potentially be a lot of interviews, so it had to be launched immediately. On the evening of July twenty-fourth an effort was made to contact the other twenty-three major party Congressional candidates and both Senatorial candidates, by the best medium available. For ten of those, that was through their campaign Facebook sites; as of this writing, five of those replied either by Facebook or by e-mail, and questions were sent to the specified e-mail addresses. E-mail was the means of initially contacting three candidates, of whom one has at this point responded. For the remaining twelve, the only way to make contact was through a form on the web site. Only two of those have responded at this point.
It should be noted that many incumbents are very difficult to reach by electronic means if you are not a resident of their districts. Their web sites include a zip code clearing system such that you cannot send a message to the Congressman if you do not attest to being one of his constituents by entering a valid Zip+4 code that is within the district. In such cases, the request was sent using the form for reporting web site problems. None of the incumbents contacted through their web sites have responded at this time. However, only one incumbent has responded at all, regardless of the means used to contact them.
The big question in bias, though, is party affiliation of those interviewed. Of the nine candidates who to this point indicated they would answer questions, seven were Republicans, two Democrats; those whose answers have already reached us include one Democrat and two Republicans. We have no control over who responds, and no way to determine whether those who do not respond received our invitation. Candidates might be avoiding the interview from concern that we might not present them in an unbiased fashion, or because they consider our circulation inadequate to be worth their time, but that is speculation and it might be with so small a sample size we simply are getting more responses from one group than the other. We promised to publish interviews in the order that the answers reached us, and have to this point done so; we will continue to do so as more responses arrive, and invite any candidate who somehow did not receive our invitation to contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviews published to date (linked and after the article) include:
- Mark Dunec, district 11 Democrat
- Yolanda Dentley, district 10 Republican
- Jude-Anthony Tiscornia, district 8 Republican.
Those who have responded to our invitation but have not yet answered our questions include:
- Dr. Alieta Eck, district 12 Republican
- Garry Cobb, district 1 Republican
- Tom MacArthur, district 3 Republican
- Janice Kovach, district 7 Democrat
- Chris Smith, district 4 Republican incumbent
- Dr. Dierdre Paul, district 9 Republican.
Those who have not responded to our invitation include
- Cory Booker, Senate Democratic incumbent
- Jeff Bell, Senate Republican
- Donald Norcross, district 1 Democrat
- Bill Hughes, district 2 Democrat
- Frank Lobiondo, District 2 Republican incumbent
- Aimee Belgard, district 3 Democrat
- Ruben Scolavino, district 4 Democrat
- Roy Cho, district 5 Democrat
- Scott Garrett, district 5 Republican incumbent
- Frank Pallone, district 6 Democrat incumbent
- Anthony Wilkinson, district 6 Republican
- Leonard Lance, district 7 Republican incumbent
- Albio Sires, district 8 Democrat incumbent
- Bill Pascrell, district 9 Democrat incumbent
- Donald Payne, Jr., district 10 Democrat incumbent
- Rodney Freylinghuysen, district 11 Republican incumbent
- Bonnie Watson Coleman, district 12 Democrat.
We hope that more interviews will be published in the weeks ahead, and encourage candidates to respond if they have not already done so.