|Getting Candidates on the Record
Remember when Clint Eastwood berated an empty chair in the 2012 GOP National Convention?
Well, we’re starting to understand his frustration because we’ve had 21 empty chairs at the Child Care Voters Candidate Conversations during the General Election.
Those empty chairs should have been filled with Republican candidates answering questions about how to solve the child care crisis.
Their poor showing contrasts deeply with the 100 filled seats at our first Racial Equity Early Childhood Education Summit. Child care providers brought their ideas and energy to the table on a rainy Saturday to address why most Black and Hispanic children are not in high-quality ECE programs. But candidates won’t put forth their ideas and energy?
Why is the GOP hiding from voters?
Heck, even a Libertarian candidate turned up for a debate. But only two Republican candidates showed up to tell voters their early childhood education plans. (Three others sent representatives in their place.)
“In terms of getting a hold of Republicans, having Republicans participate, or just getting an answer saying, ‘No, I can’t make it,’ there has been a real challenge to get any sort of response,” said Kyle McMillen, our Civic Engagement Coordinator, when asked by a reporter about the poor GOP candidate turnout.
Getting candidates to debate these days is a challenge across the board. Even high-profile statewide candidates are ducking the debate stage. But Child Care Voters persevered, hosting 15 Candidate Conversations this year with one more in Montgomery County on Wednesday.
Despite the dismal GOP showing, the debates have revealed some interesting positions. One GOP candidate suggested unionizing ECE workers, and a Libertarian candidate endorsed more government intervention to stabilize the sector. Even the Democrats disagreed on key points like teacher salary and universal access.
These candid conversations are critical in our democracy. Most voters don’t want candidates who toe the party line or follow lockstep in partisan mentality. They want to hear from candidates who may disagree with their political leadership and are bold enough to say so publicly. They want candidates who reflect their values, and are okay with a fresh perspective or new approach.
Are Republican candidates afraid they may say something that will upset the party purists? Or do they not value child care, an issue supported by a strong majority of Democratic, Independent, and Republican women?
We wish we knew. And so do their voters.
Child care voters like you do have another resource to determine where your candidates stand: Child Care Voter candidate questionnaires. Fourteen Republicans and 79 Democrats – again, not the best GOP turnout – made public their positions on child care, pre-k, and broadband access. See if your candidates have submitted their responses and contact them if they haven’t.