Candidates should ask the right questions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I can tell it is a gubernatorial election year. At first, Democrats, Republicans, and a couple of independent candidates unabashedly solicited my money.

More recently, they desperately want my opinions – and my money. They must have heard in the four corners of Virginia that I have an opinion on most things including the economy and education and health care. I care about how we treat our most vulnerable citizens and how we take care of valuable natural resources.

But as I review the latest surveys that show up in my mailbox and pop-up on the Internet, I wonder why none of them ask me questions or give me information that address what is really on my mind.

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For instance, one mailing informs me that the candidate must raise $50, 000 a day to run a campaign for a statewide office. I know business operations are expensive, but I wonder how many of those dollars are going to Virginia citizens who run Virginia businesses.

Wouldn’t that be putting your money where your mouth is to support Virginia’s economy? I know it takes an army of energetic volunteers to make the wheels turn at the grassroots level, but I wonder how many dollars go to Virginia’s youth instead of organizers imported from other states. I know it is important to get the message out across the state about the candidate’s platform. But does that really happen when misleading remarks are uttered with authority while Rosie O’Donnell’s face is on the TV screen?

I didn’t know she was running for anything.

Questions on every survey I have perused are carefully crafted and give me several options for answers. I keep on searching for one that lets me check &uot;This is important, but it’s not the main issue.&uot;

All of this solicitation of my opinion has made me really consider what is the most important thing to me these days. I have to admit I was surprised at myself when the word &uot;Safety&uot; kept coming to mind. I have never felt less safe in an unsafe world.

Unsafe when I travel where a terrorist might strike; unsafe in the marketplace where a sniper can randomly choose to end a life; unsafe in the neighborhood where violence can maim or kill innocent bystanders; unsafe in my home where cyber thieves can perpetrate scams and rip-off my identity.

I have never been averse to risk. I have walked a circus high wire and jumped out of a plane. I have drunk the bile of snakes and stood nose to nose with a bear. I have traveled alone to far lands. I have raised children.

So why is safety now such a pressing issue? I think it has to do with the human psyche.

Psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow described a list of human needs that we all strive to fill. They are physiological needs, safety needs, belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization. We begin with the physiological needs (like food and water) as the most important to fill and then work our way up the chain. Dr. Maslow says that one funny thing about the first four needs is that if you don’t have enough, you feel the need. If you get what you need, you feel nothing at all.

In other words, you don’t miss water until the well runs dry.

So, I must not be feeling safe in my environment. I need these politicians who want my dollars and my thoughts to tell me how they are going to promote a safe Virginia. Then I can move on to bonding with other citizens and feeling good about myself and the state where I live.

Beverly Outlaw lives in Suffolk and writes an occasional column for the News-Herald. She can be reached at