Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My View of the Endorsement Process

As the male State Rep Candidate that was mentioned above, I have found the endorsement process both fascinating and helpful. I am one of those grass-root politicians who is brand new to being a politician, unless you count three campaigns where I didn’t even make a blip on the charts in Indiana more than 25 years ago.

In this, my almost-virgin campaign, I have been part of four endorsement processes: Northside Democracy for America, IVI-IPO, the PACs and Unions, and the Regular Democrats. It has been an advanced lesson in Chicago politics, one that more voters ought to experience.

The most clamorous process is NDFA, where progressive, ethical, and fiscally-responsible candidates are asked to present themselves. OK, it is exclusionary since you have to have those qualities AND be a Democrat. It also differs from IVI-IPO and the PAC/Union process because it is without questionnaire. That leaves the decision to be based on the literature the candidate presents, the reporting done by Steve, who does a write-up after talking with the candidate, and the candidate’s actual presentation. There is then a month’s wait to vote. The free-form works well and offers a real challenge because the questions are often very pointed and the rivalry between supporters is both friendly and serious.

For me, just listening has been a learning experience since it gives one the opportunity to hear real answers to the concerns of specific voters. Likewise it gives a chance to hear the fluff, when the candidate delivers it.

IVI-IPO, on the other hand, is long on the questionnaire. Unfortunately they are also very slow in making the completed ones available, so much so that my opponent’s answers were only available on the website at 10 pm the night before (when mine was up there too). The difficulty here is understandable since volunteers have too much to do. My questionnaire had sat with them for a long time. I heard that my opponent’s had only been received the night before, in spite of stern warnings that if you missed the deadline (she had) there was no forgiveness.

Since there were only three voters from my district (myself, my partner, and another resident/activist) the chair appointed a few others to vote as well, a process that could be fraught with the smell of machine politics, but since I won the vote, I won’t complain.

I liked the short intro and short after-word, since I enjoy answering questions. For my part, I found the questions really well thought and a bit challenging, which I think is important. Unlike at NDFA I wasn’t allowed to hear my opponent. That speechifying was followed by discussion without the presence of the candidates and I hear it was lively and interesting, though it turns out one-sided since the non-binding vote was 5 to 1. I am now awaiting the certification by the State Board, since less than 15 votes were cast. The nearly two-week wait is way too long, but again you are relying on the “kindness of volunteers” to paraphrase Blanche DuBois.

I had always wondered how the IVI-IPO endorsements were made and to finally find out was a good thing. It is unfortunate, though, that it doesn’t include hundreds more voters, such being the sad state of (non) participatory democracy in America today.

The third group, PACs and Unions, to which I might add Editors, seems mostly to be about paper. It is also a process that begins too late in the primary election cycle to make much difference, as they say they are waiting for the petitions to be certified. Really, then why were the candidates for governor and other high-ranking officials endorsed so much sooner? It’s also obvious that PAC and Union money is saved for the perceived-to-be winners. Disclosure here: that became clear when I read the book “Reforming State Legislative Elections” by William M. Salka.

I know, I know. It’s called betting on a sure thing. I see that merely as a great way to preserve’s one’s ability to influence AND to preserve the status quo. That, I think, is the big difference, as NDFA and IVI-IPO seem to care less about the status quo and more about good government or at least their brand of it. And yes, I am prejudiced here, since even the unions that would seem to have been naturals to endorse me decided (so far at least) to endorse no one.

And then there are the regular Democrats. Twice I tried to meet my Ward 39 committeeman and twice I was unable to get an appointment. The third time I went and sat in the reception area of his office for two-and-a-half hours, having been told my name was on the list and he would see me. Closing time for the office is posted for 9 pm. At 8:30, when my turn came, I was told that Mr. Committeeman was leaving and couldn’t see me. The party looks out for its own, especially when its own are in-laws, children, cousins, or big contributors.

Now I will give up my rant if someone tells me that the Committeeman has no responsibility to see that his/her Ward elects the best candidate as determined by open debate among competing and competent candidates. Never mind, I’ll win the really old-fashioned way, by knocking on doors and gaining support of the voters one hand-shake at a time.

As my friend Chuck me told at the very beginning of this run “You cannot fail.” This education has been priceless and even if I don’t win, has prepared me well for the next time when I just might run against the Committeeman.

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