Getting straight answers from politicians is long, hard slog

What they said, or didn't say

What they said, or didn't say (March 16, 2013)

 I often hear from readers who are frustrated they can't get straight answers from the people who represent them in Washington.

Residents who can't get calls returned, positions explained — even one guy so desperate to speak with his congressman that he was contemplating writing a campaign check just to get an audience.

That's just sorry.

So I decided I'd get some basic answers for everyone — from all our local reps.

I mean, how hard could it be? Surely, the men and women brave enough to run for public office wouldn't cower from simple questions.

At least that's what I thought March 1. Two weeks — and more than 25 phone calls and emails later — I better understood the frustration.

Some of these guys are so averse to straight answers that I wonder if they bypassed "I do" on their wedding day for: "It depends."

All I wanted was yes-or-no answers to six simple questions about issues people care about: guns, immigration, taxes, Social Security, gay marriage and voting rights.

Most of Central Florida's representatives were willing to answer — after some prodding. But not all. And some of the responses and excuses were actually pretty funny.

So check out the answers on the chart above. (And see full responses at

Now let me tell you how we got there …

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

With Nelson, we finally got what we needed — after a bit of back-and-forth.

I asked for six yes-or-no responses. His first response included zero.

(My kids' teachers would rate that an "F" for following instructions.)

Still, Nelson at least responded — thoughtfully, no less. So I attempted to decipher what he meant for each one and sent back a note that essentially said: "I think these 59 words you wrote on the Voting Rights Act can be summed up with 'Yes.' Am I right?"

We arrived at conclusive answers on everything — except gay marriage. On that one, Nelson said he had "a record of standing up for people's civil rights based on sexual orientation," but he refused to take a stand on the Defense of Marriage Act, saying the Supreme Court would settle that issue.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

This one was the strangest.

I sent the six basic questions to Rubio's spokesman and got no response.

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