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A candidate in the cold



U.S. Senate candidate Paul Richards is feeling left out.

Richards picketed on the steps of the Lee Newspapers State Bureau last Wednesday to protest being left out of Lee’s 2006 Senate race poll in December. Richards says he’s a viable candidate for incumbent Republic Sen. Conrad Burns’ seat, and that Lee Newspapers created an effective “media blackout” of his campaign by not including him in the poll.

“I’ve been campaigning actively since July,” says Richards, who has raised about $5,000 so far. “Leaving people off polls is an unfair and arbitrary mistake. It is a mistake to believe there are only two viable candidates challenging Burns.”

The poll in question was conducted for Lee Newspapers by Washington, D.C.,-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Dec. 13–15. The poll asked voters about possible head-to-head match-ups between Burns and Democratic challengers John Morrison, Montana state auditor, and state Senate President Jon Tester.

“…[W]e’ll poll again in May,” says Charles S. Johnson, chief of Lee’s state bureau. “In that poll we’ll include everyone running in the U.S. House and Senate races.”

Richards says being left out of the early poll has damaged his campaign and gives potential supporters the impression he’s not a viable candidate.

Johnson, however, says it isn’t feasible to include every candidate in the poll, noting that adding Richards’ name alone would have added eight to 10 questions to the poll.

According to Mason-Dixon’s Larry Harris, the cost of such polls is driven by the number of interviews required and how long it takes to conduct each one. At some point, says Harris, editors have to draw the line.

“[Lee Newspapers] is not out to push one way or the other,” says Harris. “In general, is it newsworthy and cost-effective to find out that a guy’s polling at 2 percent?”

Despite the slight in the recent poll and shortage of campaign funds, Richards thinks he still has a legitimate shot at Burns’ seat.

“I may not have the most money, but I have the best ideas,” he says.


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