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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The endorsement game: or how to keep the game well-rigged

As a candidate you get sent (or not sent as we shall see) various questionnaires and offers for interviews from different organizations looking to endorse (or at least "out" somebody) during the election.

Some of these organizations actually have some political clout, and others just want to appear to have it.

But the whole game is strangely devoid of any relationship to the stances of the candidates themselves, and as you play it, you discover that on many levels nobody actually cares what your position on issues is, because it is only your party identifier that matters.

Three cases in point:

1.  The Delaware AFL-CIO sent me a questionnaire and invited me to an interview.  I went.  I'm the only person running in my district who actually has had any union experience, and in fact I was a union president for six years.  Nobody else running in my district even bothered to fill out the questionnaire.  Many of my answers (as people who know me well will know) were far more pro-labor than my Libertarian party-identifier would suggest.  In my "interview," the one guy sitting there had (a) not read my questionnaire; (b) took ten minutes to find my questionnaire on his iPad; and (c) actually fell asleep twice in the middle of the interview (I know I talk too much sometimes, but really).  Then he told me that the AFL-CIO would hold its endorsement convention in two weeks and the he would contact me pro or con the Monday after.  That was a month ago; he never wrote, never communicated, and--naturally--the AFL-CIO did not endorse me.  The most truthful statement he made during the process was, "We don't discriminate by party, only position, but we'd probably never endorse a Libertarian."  (Oh, and despite rhetoric to the contrary, the Delaware AFL-CIO endorsed two candidates who never filled out a questionnaire.)

2.  The Delaware Campaign for Liberty represents itself as non-partisan, and explained that it hadn't sent me a questionnaire because third parties don't have primaries, and therefore they don't send out questionnaires to candidates who don't have primaries until closer to the general election.  Of course they DID send a questionnaire to my Democratic opponent, who (surprise, surprise) doesn't have a primary, either.  When I asked about this, I was told that on the day that Libertarians get more than "0.5%" of the vote they'd send me a survey.  The reality is that C4L in Delaware is only interested in electing "Liberty" Republicans, and its director sees the Libertarian Party as competition in that regard, so he really doesn't want my answers running alongside those of the GOP candidates.  Oh well.

3.  The Delaware State Education Association [DSEA] is a "big dog" in electoral politics.  This is not because DSEA actually impacts legislation [unfortunately, it rarely does], but because DSEA spends a lot of money trying to elect legislators who will vote their way, and keeps spending that money on them no matter how many times they vote against the interests of Delaware teachers.  Three examples:

(a) Bryan Townsend did not even get an interview in 2012 because Tony DeLucca was considered a "friendly incumbent" and got the nod; this year, after having championed DSEA's causes for two years, Senator Townsend was informed that both he and his primary opponent would be interviewed because he couldn't be declared a "friendly incumbent" based on his performance in the General Assembly; [he finally got the nod this week when white smoke was seen emerging Frederika Jenner's chimney, because apparently experience does matter ... if only a little];

(b) in the Sean Matthews-Dennis Williams primary, DSEA refused to interview and endorse anybody, even though Matthews is a dues-paying, politically active member of (you guessed it!) the DSEA;

and (c) in my own case, with four candidates running, at some point before cave men figured out how to round the edges off wheels to make them roll better, DSEA declared Joe Miro a "friendly incumbent," and they are sticking to that (with no interviews and no questionnaires for the other three candidates) despite the fact that at least two of the three have expressed views far more in keeping with those of the DSEA member teachers than the incumbent.  I've endorsed and campaigned for all the resolutions that the teachers passed at the last DSEA membership convention (and I'm the only one in the race who has done so), but I don't get a shot at the endorsement because, well, apparently your actual position on education simply does not matter to Frederika Jenner and her State leadership collective.

Upshot of all this?

Most of these organizations (at least at the State leadership level) are so tightly tied to maintaining the status quo that they don't actually provide more than lip service to the idea that the policy positions of the candidates matters.

It's the Delaware Way.


  1. The DSEA endorsement process is a disservice to its own members. In other words, par for the course.

  2. What I don't understand is why 32nd district Republican candidate William McVay didn't answer the C4L survey.

    Is he afraid people might think he's secretly a Libertarian?