Breaking the secret codes of candidate endorsements

The News TribuneOctober 28, 2013 

Voters can drop off ballots at boxes located throughout Pierce County.

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Voters paying attention to this fall’s election are encountering all sorts of candidate endorsements – on campaign signs and in ads, voter pamphlets and mailings.

Interest groups tend to base their endorsements on, unsurprisingly, their interests. Some require that candidates pledge to support their issues as the quid pro quo for an endorsement.

The rationales behind endorsements may need a bit of decoding. Here’s a key to what those endorsements sometimes – not always – mean:

 • Construction and real estate trade endorsements: The endorsed candidate may support relaxing land use plans and other regulations that restrict sprawl (which often forces the public to pay fortunes for extra roads and other infrastructure). Got a big housing development headed your way? The endorsed candidate probably won’t go to the wall for higher school impact fees.

 • Firefighters endorsement: Did a candidate get the seal of approval because he or she is more opposed to house fires than the opponent? Hardly. The endorsee is probably the one the union believes will be friendlier when negotiating the next contract. The nice thing about being a public employee is that you get to elect your own bosses.

 • Law enforcement endorsements: No, the other candidate doesn’t love crime and root for the criminals. As with firefighters, the unions define the good guy as the one who’ll come through during bargaining and try to hold public safety jobs harmless when the budget needs cutting.

 • Medical association endorsements: The candidate is more likely to fight for better Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, tort reform and other causes dear to the heart of the healing profession.

 • Pro-life groups: The candidate opposes abortion in almost all cases.

 • Pro-choice groups: The candidate supports abortion in almost all cases.

 • Teachers unions: The endorsee is more likely to support smaller class sizes, less standardized testing and connecting teacher pay to seniority instead of performance.

 • The News Tribune editorial board: We want candidates who know the issues, fit well with their communities and seem temperamentally suited to the job. We’ve got our priorities, too, including open government, school reform, higher education, a strong safety net, a functional transportation system and smart growth control.

If two candidates look evenly matched, we tend to go with the incumbent (less learning curve) or the one who’d add an extra perspective. In a city council race, for instance, that diversity might consist of a different philosophy or an unrepresented demographic group.

Hope that helps.

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