This week I am celebrating receiving the endorsements of the Irish American Democratic Club, United Educators of San Francisco, the Potrero Hill Democratic Club, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021. I’m honored to have each of these endorsements, and I’m proud that this is such a diverse group of organizations!
But how do these endorsements happen, and why do they matter? Here’s a brief glimpse into what it’s like to run for office.
There are a myriad of political organizations in San Francisco, based on the members’ ethnic backgrounds, union affiliations, Supervisorial District, passions about issues, neighborhoods, age, gender, immigrant status, you name it. Each club asks the candidates to complete a questionnaire and come in to meet the members for an endorsement interview. Sometimes we get 10 minutes, sometimes we get 2. Sometimes we are grilled with tough questions, sometimes we are shooed off stage with polite applause. Sometimes the club seems really interested in what you have to say… and sometimes they made their decision before you even walked in the door. And not in a good way.
By the end of this week, I will have completed 15 endorsement questionnaires of varying length and intensity. Each of them requires a little bit of research, some careful consideration, and a lot of writing. It’s exhausting.
And important. This is where candidates get vetted by the true blue activists, the community leaders, the volunteers, the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes in San Francisco politics. These are the “super voters” – the ones who share a passion for politics, whose friends and family look to for guidance about voting, especially in down-ticket races like judgeships or DCCC. They also donate to campaigns and volunteer their time if they get excited about a candidate.
And some of these clubs send out slate mailers to voters who share their interests, thus expanding the club’s influence over the outcome of the election. Many voters read these slate mailers (and nothing else) before they vote. This is particularly true in a race like DCCC, where there are dozens of candidates, and only a few with any significant name recognition. So the more slate mailers a candidate appears on, the more likely it is that he or she will win.
We candidates like to complain to each other about the daunting task of completing all of the questionnaires on time and making it to the interviews… which all seem to be scheduled at overlapping times at opposite sides of the city. But we all know that this is how the voters figure out where we stand on the broad range of issues affecting San Francisco. This is the stuff that Democracy is made of.
Did you answer the questions thoughtfully? Did you hold up under the scrutiny? Do you have what it takes to get elected? Will you fight for certain causes once in office? These are the things the endorsing organizations want to know. And in a race like DCCC, especially in an election where the turnout is expected to be very low, endorsements can make all the difference.