A week or so ago we had two gubernatorial candidates in the office, Republican Kevin Smith and Democrat Jackie Cilley. I did my best to push both of them on their weaknesses. Smith says Concord needs reform from someone who understands business, but he’s spent most his life working closely with the legislature, not in the private sector. I couldn’t understand how someone with 15 years working in Concord who listed his understanding of how the system worked as one of his chief assets could be the architect of that system’s reform. Cilley, meanwhile, said she was “looking” at everything, but she refused to be specific about what taxes she would increase to pay for the services she wants government to provide.
It wasn’t until after Cilley left, however, that I stumbled on the big question I wish I’d asked her. Cilley has refused to take “the Pledge,” something just about every New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate has to take. It is a promise not to institute a broad-based income or sales tax. Cilley said she isn’t planning to institute such a tax, but she wants all options on the table. Further, she said, she doesn’t believe in pledge politics. It poisons the atmosphere. She resoundingly rejected the pledges Republicans took about taxes, singling out Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge.
I could understand her position, but then after she left I took a look at her website. I went to the issues page and scrolled to the bottom where she discusses her position on same-sex marriage. It reads:
I was proud to support marriage equality as a state Senator. I would never support taking away a citizen’s rights and believe that marriage is a private decision for couples to make rather than governments to decide.
I would never support taking away a citizen’s rights — that sounds to me like a line in the sand, a promise, an ultimatum, something Cilley swears she will never do. When put next to the heading Same Sex Marriage, I get the distinct impression she is making a pledge. She is promising, pledging, never to try to repeal same-sex marriage.
Why is it OK for Cilley to engage in pledge politics on the issue of same-sex marriage while rebuking pledge politics when it comes to taxes? I’m not sure. It seemed a big hole to me. I would imagine many politicians, like many people, have clear views on social issues that are not subject to changes. Stating them clearly for the record isn’t a bad thing. Promising your constituents you will stick by that position after they send you into office isn’t a bad thing either. That, essentially, is a pledge. It is a campaign promise. I would say it is one you make particularly forcefully, but that’s still what it is. So to hear Cilley decry them in one context yet make one in another (albiet without using the word pledge, but a rose by any other name is still a rose…) is strange. It makes me wonder if all this talk of pledges is just politics. It’s something I’d like to ask her. Hopefully I’ll get another shot.