Minnesota Legislature Candidate Questionnaire
A tool for ending political homelessness in your own backyard
Many Catholics are experiencing a sense of political homelessness. Neither major political party seems to embrace a consistent ethic of life rooted in Gospel values. And if we let the presidential race color our view of politics, it can be easy to think there’s no room for Catholics in the public square.
But we can change this dynamic. It starts by investing our time and energy, not in a frustrating presidential election that we can do little to influence, but in the place where our voice and actions can make the biggest difference: our own communities.
Our entire State Legislature is up for election this year. This means that a united Catholic voice in Minnesota can have a real impact on our state’s political landscape. We can use this election as an opportunity to end political homelessness in our own backyard.
Minnesota Catholics can influence our state’s political process not only by voting, but also by interacting with the candidates who are running for office prior to November’s elections. These candidates are trying to earn your vote and represent you in the State Legislature. Connecting with them and letting them know what issues are important to you and Catholics across the state can help change the way our elected officials govern—and it can remind them that Minnesota Catholics are engaged, active, and vote.
To help equip you to end political homelessness in Minnesota, the Minnesota Catholic Conference has produced the Minnesota Legislature Candidate Questionnaire. This resource will help you:
- Get feedback on where candidates stand on important issues in our state, allowing you to be an informed voter
- Build relationships with candidates, creating opportunities for future engagement
- Educate your candidates on the issues that are important to you and other Catholics throughout Minnesota
How to Use the Candidate Questionnaire
The idea of interacting with candidates for public office can sound intimidating. What if you’re not an expert on the issues? Do the candidates care what you have to say?
The truth is that candidates are simply members of your community running for office. They want to hear from you, and will be open to what you have to say if you communicate with them in a way that is respectful and clear.
The Minnesota Legislature Candidate Questionnaire can serve as a guide for these interactions. It identifies some of the most important issues likely to be addressed by our State Legislature in the 2017 session, provides related information on the Church’s social teaching, and asks the candidate to share his or her position with you. It’s not only an opportunity to get informed about the candidate’s positions; it’s a chance to inform the candidate about what issues are important to Minnesota Catholics.
The questionnaire should not be thought of as a hard and fast script, nor is it an exhaustive list of all acceptable applications of Catholic Social Teaching; there are some questions on it that you may choose not to ask; there may be other perfectly valid questions not included on it that you decide to bring up. Instead, MCC’s Candidate Questionnaire should be thought of as a template for taking the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and putting them into practical questions about real policies here in Minnesota.
Know the Issues
It’s important to go into a conversation with your candidates with a good understanding of what the issues are, and why you support the positions you do. MCC and our advocacy partners provides important resources to help you learn more about the issues and the Church teaching that informs our positions:
- MCC Advocacy Areas
- Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church
If you’re not already a member, make sure to sign up for the Catholic Advocacy Network. You’ll receive monthly E-Updates keeping you informed about the issues and MCC’s work. Once the legislative session starts, you’ll receive timely Action Alerts that equip you to take meaningful action to support life and dignity in Minnesota.
Contact Your Candidates
Before starting a conversation with your candidates, you need to identify who they are. You can look up who is running for State Senator and State Representative in your district by checking the following lists, sorted by district:
If you’re not sure what legislative district you’re in, visit http://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/ and enter your zip code.
There are 3 basic ways to communicate with the candidates in your district:
- In-person meetings
In-person meetings are the best way to form good working relationships with your candidates.
Key strategies for a successful in-person meeting:
- Be prepared
- Be respectful and kind
- Stay on topic
- Tell your story
- Send a thank-you note
Your candidates are in your district right now campaigning for the upcoming election. There are multiple ways that you can meet them, including at coffee klatches, social gatherings, parades, or town halls that they might be hosting. Check your local newspaper or call their campaign to learn more about these opportunities. Many candidates will also let the people in their district know about public appearances on social media, on their candidate campaign website, or through email listservs.
At an in person meeting, you can use the questions provided in the candidate questionnaire in your conversation with your candidate. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable having a sustained conversation about the issues, you can introduce yourself to your candidate, provide them with a printed-off version of the questionnaire, and ask them to return it to you at the address you provide.
- Written letters or emails
Written letters and emails are a good way to communicate with your candidates if you cannot meet with them in person. You can look up the candidates in your district online (Senate, House), and either mail or email the candidate questionnaire to them.
Key success strategies for written letters and emails:
- Make your letter neat and easy to read (type or print)
- Identify yourself and the reason you are contacting them
- Get right to the point
- Use terms they will understand, and avoid using abbreviations
- Ask for a reply if you want one
MCC’s candidate questionnaire already incorporates many of these strategies. You are welcome to send the questionnaire to your candidate as is, or make adjustments to the questions if you wish. Make sure to ask them to send it back to you!
- Telephone calls
An alternative to writing an email or a letter is calling your candidates. Telephone calls can be frustrating, because it is unlikely that you will reach your candidates directly (they are often in meetings or out campaigning). Do not be discouraged; they will reply when they can. However, if you cannot say what you want to say within one minute or less, write an email or letter instead.
Key strategies for successful telephone calls:
- Rehearse, make notes, and practice what you want to say
- Be prepared to leave a short message such as, “I am calling to talk to you about these issues of importance to me in the upcoming election”
- Don’t insist on a call-back
The candidate questionnaire can be a helpful script to use during your call.
Whether you’re calling your candidate on the phone, sending an email or letter, or making an in-person visit, MCC is here to help you succeed in ending political homelessness in your own backyard. Contact MCC’s Policy and Outreach Coordinator if you have additional questions about how to effectively contact your candidates (Kathryn Mollen: email@example.com, 651-900-1906).
Minnesota Legislature Candidate Questionnaire
You can use this questionnaire as a script or template for a conversation, or you can download/print it and send it in to your candidate. Make sure to ask them to fill it out and specify where they should return it!
Share Your Results with MCC
Sharing how your candidates respond to your questions can help MCC more effectively advocate during the legislative session. There are three ways to share your results:
- Email us
This is a great option if you’ve communicated with your candidate by email. You can simply send his or her responses to the questionnaire—whether they’re in the body of an email or entered directly into the questionnaire document—directly to MCC staff. Please send them to Kathryn Mollen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mail us
If your candidate filled out and returned a printed-off version of the candidate questionnaire, you can make a copy and mail the document into MCC staff. Please send it to:
Minnesota Catholic Conference
475 University Ave. W
St. Paul, MN 55103
- Enter information online
We’ve created an easy-to-use online form for sharing candidate responses with MCC. Please include as much information as you can—and make sure to indicate from which candidate the responses are coming!