06.20.14 Which endorsements are worth considering?

Dear Readers, at this time of year you not only get barraged with mailings that tell you surprisingly little about the candidates running (and, if you’re like me, you hit overload at some point and just toss all the stuff in the recycling bin), you also get news about which candidates have been endorsed by whom. How do you sort through all this often-conflicting information and make good choices? Here is a brief guide.

The Washington Post has good writing and the capacity for decent analysis. But for local races, it is important to remember that the Post is obsessively pro-development (at the expense of the environment) and is so virulently anti-labor that it colors everything they do. This years’ endorsements for Montgomery County Council at-large are downright disgusting; their endorsees — except for Marc Elrich — never met a piece of concrete they didn’t love. Elrich slips by the Post’s ideology because of his advocacy for bus rapid transit and his willingness to dialogue with developers. I think the Post’s endorsements for state and national races are very good to excellent.

The Montgomery Gazette used to be at least as pro-big business as the Post, but seems to have toned it down a bit this year. But you have to wonder about a publication that is willing to toss aside a powerful champion like Sheila Hixson with the comment “longevity’s no substitute for the passion that’s abundant elsewhere.” If they disagreed with Hixson’s positions, that would be one thing, but to blame her only for what they (incorrectly) see as a lack of fervor is just plain ridiculous. For me, that lack of serious analysis discredits everything else they write.

Progressive Neighbors (PN) produces a quality questionnaire for evaluating candidates, even if their presentation and processes are a bit amateurish at times. Apart from me, this is the only organization in Montgomery County I’m aware of that judges candidates based on their actual positions on progressive issues. Since PN is all-volunteer, they lack the resources to cover the whole county or to produce more professional-looking materials. I sure wish they would provide some analysis to go with their endorsements.

Public employee unions and big business endorse candidates based entirely on their self-interest. Perhaps you should follow them if you are a member of the union or the business. Otherwise, you are selling your soul by trusting their endorsements. Of particular note is the Montgomery County Education Association — the teachers’ union — which publishes the “Apple Ballot.” You’ve heard it here first: the Apple Ballot is rotten. This union, which sued the county (this is, you and me) twice during the recent fiscal crisis isn’t really about quality education, but rather only about getting their own at the expense of everyone else. Their big-money involvement in county politics is nearly as bad as the big developers — distorting the process in service to themselves. All MoCo candidates claim to be in favor of good education and most really are. But remember that county elected officials other than the county executive and members of the school board don’t actually have a role in creating school budgets and policies.

Sierra Club does a very good job of comparing candidates on their issues of concern and pointing you towards the truly green candidates (as opposed to greenwashed ones). Here’s a summary for those in my area:

  • Maryland Governor: Heather Mizeur
  • Maryland Attorney General: Brian Frosh
  • Maryland District 20: Jamie Raskin, Sheila Hixson, Will Smith, Darian Unger
  • Montgomery County District 5: Tom Hucker
  • Montgomery County At-Large: Marc Elrich and Beth Daly only

Women’s rights and gay rights organizations’ endorsements in most Montgomery County races are utterly meaningless, since 90% of the candidates agree on these issues. All these organizations are doing is cherry picking tiny nuances of difference between the candidates or, even worse, playing inside baseball and picking favorites for reasons they won’t reveal. I urge readers to ignore these endorsements entirely, unless they live in conservative parts of the county.

Elected officials’ endorsements can be very helpful in selecting candidates. If you know, for example, that you agree with Marc Elrich’s politics, seeing that he has endorsed Beth Daly can help you get comfortable with her, even if you don’t know very much about her.

Candidate slates (i.e., candidates who have agreed to run together) are a poor way to select whom to vote for, except to the extent that you trust some of the slate members (per the previous point). I was very disappointed to see that D20 candidates Raskin and Hixson put together a slate with Will Smith and David Moon (even though I think highly of them), as I was that Jonathan Shurberg countered by slating with D’Juan Hopewell. I see slates as an attempt to manipulate voters and disincent them from thinking for themselves.

Left-Hand View: Would it surprise you, Dear Reader, that I consider my own views damn near brilliant? Well, my candidate review process is hardly methodical and complete (mostly, all I write are my opinions, hopefully grounded by some facts) and my coverage of the county hardly extends beyond MD D20 and MoCo D5. There are plenty of good reasons to disagree with me. But, if you don’t have another basis for sorting through your choices, I hope that you find my analysis helpful (or, at least, amusing).

©2014 Keith Berner

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One Comment on “06.20.14 Which endorsements are worth considering?”

  1. Keith, I see some slates as attempts by cash-poor candidates to gain exposure by linking to richer candidates, and the richer candidates can in turn create a sense of… what, teamwork, identification with the characteristics of the other candidates? This is the reason I see behind Shurberg-Hopewell and also behind Sheila Hixson’s teaming. Her fund-raising was lagging.


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