All of the incumbent legislators responded to the newspaper’s questionnaire and request for biographical background, as did two of the three challengers.
House District 64 Democrat Ron Osborne did not respond to the questions posed by the newspaper, although he outlined at some length his irritations with what he considered to be the newspaper’s lateness in the campaign cycle in submitting its questions, the length of the questionnaire, as well as what he considered the short amount of time given to respond.
Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr. sent a letter outlining the newspaper’s procedures to all legislative candidates on Friday morning, October 14, with a request to complete the questionnaire and provide responses by the following Tuesday at 12:00 noon.
Boney also asked each candidate to confirm receipt of the emailed request.
When three candidates had not confirmed receipt by Saturday, Boney sent a follow-up email to the three, one of whom was Osborne.
Osborne responded the next morning, “Thank you for the inquiry. I will do my best to thoughtfully answer and return the questions by the due date. Due to the short window for submission, length of the questionnaire, and the late date on which it has been sent, meeting that deadline may be a tall order. I will give it a try!”
But 20 minutes before the Tuesday noon deadline, Osborne emailed to the newspaper that he was not going to respond to the newspaper’s questionnaire at all. “I’m sorry that this inquiry was initiated and delivered to me at so late a stage in the election, and that the time window specified so short. . . .Given all of the other activities [occurring] at this juncture in the campaign season and the gravity of the issues at hand, your inquiries simply merit more time and attention than have been permitted.”
Osborne goes on to calculate that the newspaper had had 224 days since the filing deadline in March to have submitted its questions which would have allowed him to respond “in a more timely manner” rather than “just the four already hectic days” which he described as having been provided.
“Had even a week or two of timeliness been offered during these past seven months, I would have gladly taken the proper measure of time to provide thorough, thoughtful responses to your requests and thus do them justice for your deserving readers.”
Osborne went on to complain about the newspaper’s stated intention which had been given to all candidates that any failure to provide responses would be listed as “refused to respond.”
“You may very well choose to state that I ‘refused to respond,’” he said, “but that would not be an accurate nor a full and fair portrayal of the matter.”
Osborne then went on to equate a generic ad solicitation sent from the newspaper to all political candidates with the time allotted for the questionnaire. “If you can send out an inquiry for advertising in your publication to candidates 9 weeks (September 2nd) before the election, surely you can do the same for the responses you now seek,” he said.
In this letter to Osborne and all legislative candidates, as well as in letters in previous weeks to county commissioner and school board candidates, Boney had specified that the newspaper would provide the positions of recalcitrant candidates, when known, even when they did not volunteer a response: “We encourage you to provide your own description of your position on the issues raised. In the event that any candidate opts not to respond to the questionnaire, any previously-stated positions – when known from previous years’ or other questionnaires, public statements, voting record, etc. – will be summarized by the newspaper in lieu of a response from the candidate; additionally the annotation ‘Refused to respond’ will be listed for the candidate’s response.”
Therefore, Osborne’s positions on a half-dozen of the newspaper’s questions are listed by the newspaper despite his refusal to reveal his positions.
Additionally, “Refused to respond,” is, indeed, the listing for all of the other questions on which Osborne refused to provide his answers to questions and issues posed by the newspaper.
Said publisher Tom Boney, Jr., “It seems to us, if the candidate had spent the same amount of time substantively answering the questions as he put into his complaining email, he could probably have finished the process in far less time.
“We also find it ironic, if not mildly amusing, that he somehow found the time to respond to a questionnaire published recently in The (Raleigh) News & Observer, but not for Alamance County’s local newspaper.
“As we noted last week in the case of a different candidate who also didn’t respond to the newspaper’s questions, it’s usually an indication of one or more of several factors: the candidate doesn’t know much about the issues (and doesn’t want to reveal that flaw), wants to conceal potentially unpopular views, or is not really serious about seeking the position in the first place.
“We don’t know which, or how many, of those factors might explain Osborne’s unwillingness to respond, but he does a disservice, in our opinion, both to his supporters as well as to those who had intended to consider and evaluate his candidacy for this important position,” Boney said.
“We go to great lengths to treat all candidates fairly, but there’s only so much we can do when one of them simply won’t respond,” the publisher concluded.