"Do you support or oppose having the mayor issue a proclamation in support of the annual gay pride parade?"
"Do you support or oppose elective abortions at city-owned medical facilities?"
"Do you support or oppose extending the current benefits plan (including health insurance coverage) to include the same-sex domestic partners of city employees, as has been previously debated by the City Council?"
These issues so far have not been in the forefront of the local mayoral and City Council campaigns, but they're always at the forefront of Focus on the Family's agenda. So when the locally based evangelical organization sent out a candidate survey, co-sponsored by CitizenLink, its political lobbying arm, it included these questions along with a few others, such as whether the city should introduce fees to pay for city services. (The surveys are viewable at citizenlink.com/2011-colorado-springs-municipal-elections.)
"Colorado Springs is in our backyard," explains Carrie Gordon Earll, spokeswoman for CitizenLink and Focus, when asked why an organization as large as Focus would concern itself with such races. "We care very much about who is in office. This affects our employees, and we want to be good neighbors and be civically involved. This is a pivotal election with the strong mayor's race. We certainly wouldn't sit out at any time, but certainly not in '11.
"There wasn't any indication in the questioning," she adds, "how we wanted somebody to answer."
Along with the candidate survey, CitizenLink's website is promoting a campaign to oppose state legislation supporting civil unions, as well as a campaign urging President Barack Obama to continue enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act.
Dutifully, all mayoral candidates, and the majority of the council candidates, provided their answers. And most answered in such a way that aligned with Focus' interests.
Take the question about the mayor's proclamation on a gay pride parade. Seven of the candidates said that they would not issue a proclamation, whether it was due to their unwillingness to promote the gay lifestyle as "mainstream and accepted," as Brian Bahr wrote, or due to their more high-minded opposition to the event. As Tom Gallagher wrote: "I don't understand this deep seated need for external validation of their personal life choices."
Only Richard Skorman and Dave Munger wrote that they would issue such a proclamation.
Among the candidates who did not respond to the survey were conservatives Sean Paige, who is running for Council at-large, and Larry Bagley in the District 2 field.
Paige says that he must have gotten lost in the shuffle of running a campaign, adding that he would have been happy to respond. It wasn't, he says, a political decision. Similarly, Bagley says that he had no idea there was a survey, and would've responded.
Michael Merrifield, running for Council in District 3, says he chose not to.
"I don't feel any need to respond to Focus on the Family," he says. "Perhaps, if they wish to be involved in politics they could consider starting to pay property taxes."
Earll says Focus does this in every election, going back at least to '07. The organization even wanted to organize a mayoral forum for their employees, she says, but the logistics were too daunting.
CitizenLink will not be making any endorsements.
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