In case you hadn't noticed, it's open season on political candidates. Here at home we get to ask the candidates questions at various forums and they do their best to give straight answers. Our county is so small that a person running for local office can't ignore us because we will run into them everywhere from the local supermarket to the gas station.

This is not the case with the various candidates running for state Assembly and Senate. After they have looked at their map and found "Del-nor-tay" County and their campaign manager suggests a quick trip, they wind up here ready to give their canned campaign speech.

Normally we just let them talk about how beautiful the area is without any real probing questions about their positions on the issues. When they are questioned, instead of straight answers, they give evasive ones. Then they go home and put a check mark by our county name that says they've been there and done that. The next time we will see them is when the next election season rolls around.

I suggest that when they come here we don't let them escape without asking some specific probing questions concerning the issues that we are all concerned about. Naturally they will try to get out of a direct answer by saying they have to study the issue or that they need more information or some other dodge. If they are in our county asking for our vote, they should already be familiar with our issues, so here are a few questions they must answer before they will get my vote:

andbull; Question: The illegal fire tax was imposed only on rural areas of the state and especially hurts low income people. Will you sponsor legislation that would repeal this tax? Yes, or no?Don't let them get around it by saying they may not be selected on a committee with jurisdiction on the matter or another artful dodge, just demand that they answer the question, yes or no.

andbull; Question: Will you sponsor legislation that mandates that the economic impact studies going on for Last Chance Grade be put on the fast track to be completed by June of next year? Yes, or no. This question assumes that they even know where Last Chance Grade is and know there is a Caltrans study.

andbull; Question: Will you dedicate a field representative from your office to be assigned to work exclusively on Del Norte County issues?Yes, or no.The reason for this question is that a field representative can really get the ear of the assemblyman or senator so that we can get some real representation.Currently we have a person assigned to us by Sen. Nielsen, in the person of Scott Feller. Will our new senator continue to do this? Let's find out.

andbull; Question: If the issue concerning the vote on the "State of Jefferson" passes in Del Norte County, would you vote to let our county leave the state of California and form its own state?Yes, or no.

Four questions to answer with a simple yes or no.We will be able to tell a lot about each of these candidates for Assembly and Senate by the way they address these questions. If they are unfamiliar with our issues, what makes them think that they will be knowledgeable about them when they get elected and they are dealing with problems concerning all of the other counties they represent?

We must not let them be evasive in their answers.Two or four years from now, when they run for re-election, we will have a record of what they told us they were going to do or not do and what they actually did once they were elected.

It will be a powerful tool to use in determining whether they represented our interests and needs versus those of Marin and the other counties they will represent.

All of the candidates have received these questions from me through their website contact page, so they can't say they were taken by surprise.This is the only time we in Del Norte County will have some leverage with these candidates.It's time we use it.

Bob Berkowitz is a Crescent City resident and president of LifeStyles Research Co.