And the Winner Is ...

Our Second Annual Awards for Replies From Politicians.

Last year, The Weekly handed out "Phoneies" to city and county politicians based on the time it took them to respond to phone calls from a constituent (see "The Envelope, Please," March 7, 2002). This year, the communication method was e-mail, the candidates were state and federal office holders from the Tucson area, and the prize is a "Mouseketeer," symbolic of the new technology.

Twenty-two elected officials were contacted asking for their position on an important issue. Some replied quickly; most had to be sent a reminder, and others didn't bother to respond at all, showing us what they think of those who contact them.

After a detailed review of the results, the nominees and winners are:

Instant Messaging

The politicians that replied the quickest were all state representatives:

· Ted Downing of District 28 responded the same day our message was sent.

· Randy Graf of District 30, who even though we didn't like what he had to say, did get back to us the next day.

· Marian McClure of District 30 took only four days to reply, but waffled in her answer to our question.

· David Bradley of District 28 sent a short, straightforward response in four days.

And the winner is: Ted Downing. Not only was he the quickest to respond, but he actually sent two replies. Attention to detail like that definitely wins him some brownie points.

Close, But No Cigar

The state legislators competing in this category took a little too long to qualify for the top prize, but their response time was impressive just the same. They are:

· Linda Lopez of District 29, who took six days to reply.

· Tom Prezelski of District 29 needed one week.

· Olivia Cajero-Bedford of District 27 required the same amount of time.

The winner is: Linda Lopez. She got back to us a day faster than the competition, and her reply was very to-the-point.

If At First You Don't Succeed

Those politicians who didn't respond to us within two weeks were sent a reminder notice. This spurred at least some of them to get back to us:

· Marsha Arzberger of District 25 complained that she was very busy, but the state senator did reply within two days after our second message.

· Sen. Gabrielle Giffords of District 28 asked if she hadn't answered the first message five days after our receiving our reminder notice.

· Representative Pete Hershberger of District 26 took less than an hour to respond.

· Senator Jorge Luis Garcia of District 27 needed four days.

The winner is: Pete Hershberger. He may have been slow initially, but 40 minutes is very quick turn-around time.

We Might Be Luddites, But ...

While most of those contacted were easy to reach electronically, and their responses readily accessible, there were some exceptions. The nominees are:

· State Rep. Phil Lopes, since he sent a reply as an attachment in a non-standard format--not as a text file--and we couldn't open it, so we don't know what his position on the issue is.

· U.S. Sen. John McCain who requires that messages to him be inserted into an electronic form that he provides.

· U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl for whom securing the proper e-mail address proved difficult.

The winner in this non-technical category is: John McCain. While he has an auto response telling constituents immediately what to do, if you're not prepared, his system can cause a lot of trouble.

Hard Copy Contact

Tucson's representatives in Washington, D.C., don't respond to e-mail via e-mail, with Senator Kyl saying he can't possibly do so for the 5,000 messages he receives weekly. But all of them will send reply letters, if they have the constituent's mailing address. The nominees are:

· Sen. McCain, whose response hasn't been received yet.

· Congressman Jim Kolbe got back to us within 15 days, but only did so because we told him we lived in his district.

· Sen. Kyl only sent a message telling us that because of anthrax problems, his incoming postal mail was delayed two to six weeks in delivery.

· Congressman Raul Grijalva required 17 days to respond.

The winner is: A tie between Kolbe and Grijalva. The former sent along an informative committee position paper on the issue, while the latter was straightforward about where he stood on it.

Lost in the Mail

Those who didn't respond to us, even after the second message:

· Rep. Manuel Alvarez of District 25

· Jennifer Burns of District 25

· State Sen. Toni Hellon of District 26

· Steve Huffman of District 26

· Sen. Victor Soltero of District 29

· Sen. Tim Bee of District 30

The winner is: Nobody. When politicians are too busy to tell their constituents where they stand on the issues, everybody losses. People remain in the dark about what their elected officials believe, and the officials look bad to those they are elected to represent.

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