Washington, Sept. 6 – Employment. Stigma. Education. Criminal Justice. Independent Living. Sexual Assault. Housing. Transportation. Adaptive Technology. Fifteen candidates for Senate or Governor have given detailed answers about their views on these issues for people with disabilities.
The more than 56 million people with disabilities in the U.S. have a long list of policy concerns for the candidates running for governor and the U.S. Senate in 2016. Only one-in-three working-age Americans with a disability has a job, despite the fact that studies show that 70 percent want to work. Moreover, according to Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, more than 750,000 people with disabilities are behind bars in our nation. Disability is the only minority group that people can join at any time due to accident, illness or aging.
RespectAbility, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, asked candidates on both sides of the aisle to complete a 16 (for gubernatorial) or 17 (for Senate) question survey. The questionnaire asked for their positions on a range of issues important to the disability community, a group that makes up fully one-in-five Americans. Their answers are posted verbatim and in full here on The RespectAbility Report, a publication that covers the intersection of disability and politics.
This is the first time down-ballot candidates have been asked to complete a questionnaire about disability-related issues on such a wide scale.
So far, four candidates for governor from Delaware, Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont (two Republican candidates and two Democratic candidates) have submitted a response. On the Senate side, RespectAbility has received eleven responses from candidates. The Senate responses are from seven Democrats and four Republicans from Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.
Said RespectAbility’s president Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “Since disability doesn’t discriminate, voters with disabilities are every race, age, ethnic group, religion and gender. As the presidential election has become polarized around racial and ethnic lines, disability issues can create the difference between winning and losing.”
And candidates have begun to use disability in their campaign ads. Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton superPAC, released two ads in swing states targeting Trump’s treatment of people with disabilities – Dante, featuring a 17-year-old African American boy with a disability, and Grace, featuring parents of a child with spina bifida.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan‘s first ad tells the story of her son Ben, who has cerebral palsy, is a wheelchair user and is nonverbal. She is running for New Hampshire’s open Senate seat.
Just today, GOP Sen. Richard Burr‘s campaign is out with a new statewide television ad in North Carolina highlighting his work in support of the bi-partisan Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. This new law, which also was supported by Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, creates new savings accounts for individuals with disabilities in order to pay for qualified disability expenses.
Below are links to detailed answers to the questionnaire.
|View Full Answers
|Colin Bonini (R)
|Chris Koster (D)
|Derek Dextraze (D)
|Phil Scott (R)
|View Full Answers
|Foster Campell (D)
|Caroline Fayard (D)
|Abhay Patel (R)
|Kathy Szeliga (R)
|Chris Van Hollen (D)
|Catherine Cortez Masto (D)
|Richard Burr (R)
|Deborah Ross (D)
|Katie McGinty (D)
|Russ Feingold (D)
|Florida (lost primary)
|Dwight Young (R)
RespectAbility and The RespectAbility Report are nonpartisan and do not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.
Last winter, RespectAbility sent the #PwDsVote Presidential Campaign Questionnaire to all of the presidential candidates. We had a team of nine people in Iowa and New Hampshire asking candidates questions about disability issues. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton responded in full. While several Republican primary candidates also did, despite repeated requests, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has yet to return any answers to the questionnaire. We still hope he will do so in the future now that the campaign is under new management with KellyAnne Conway at its helm.
Now RespectAbility has adapted the questionnaire for down-ballot races, focusing on open and competitive senate and gubernatorial races. The reason was simple. Voters who care about disability issues – which polls show is the majority of voters – will have the opportunity to compare how the candidates responded to the same questions in their own words.
RespectAbility has called on disability activists around the country to call their states’ candidates to urge them to complete the #PwDsVote Senate & Gubernatorial Disability Questionnaire. The questionnaire itself has been written in a way that is acceptable for 501c3 nonprofits, is nonpartisan and is not electioneering.
The linked excel list was shared with disability activists and includes candidates’ email addresses, phone numbers, appropriate contact person (where we could identify) and Twitter handles.
RespectAbility will continue to reach out to the remaining candidates and will post their responses on The RespectAbility Report when we receive them. Several other candidates have confirmed they are working on their responses and plan to submit them by next week.
When a candidate responds, the spreadsheet is updated in real-time to include a link to their responses that have been posted on The RespectAbility Report. In addition, update emails will be sent with new responses on a regular basis.
Early voting starts soon, and many members of the disability community vote absentee. The responses will be used for individualized state voter guides presenting answers from all candidates in their Senate and/or gubernatorial races. The RespectAbility Report also will be covering these races from a disability angle throughout the political season.