Prior to running for school board, I never gave much thought to the process of endorsing a candidate. I assumed that an individual, group or organization looked at all the candidates and made decisions based on qualifications and alignment. But the reality is, high-profile endorsements are based on established relationships and often given with some number of expectations or actual strings attached. Having been through this process I can almost guarantee you that no endorsement is based on a clear, fair, and transparent selection process.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do have a lot of endorsements from a range of folks across the city. These endorsements come from people who know me and who know my work. And these endorsements are meaningful within a specific network. If a teacher I’ve coached recommends me to her colleagues at work, her opinion carries weight with those folks. But I certainly wouldn’t expect a random stranger to vote for me just because my friend Kevin says I’m the best candidate. So, I’m not spending a lot of time collecting and formatting and publishing the opinions of my friends and colleagues.
Organizational and political endorsements come with strings. That can’t be disputed. And that also doesn’t belong anywhere in the work of a school board. It wasn’t until I interviewed with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association endorsement committee, that I began to have a real sense of the problem that endorsements create in a non-partisan election. Once a group picks a candidate, the focus is on winning, not on getting the best people into the role. Suddenly the campaign is about promoting or rejecting candidates on the basis of political affiliation, race, special interest issues or back-room promises. Two camps form and everyone is supposed to pick a side. Any candidates who didn’t get picked for one of the two teams is not supposed to stay in the game.
Maybe it’s just me, but even when a group I trust or a politician I supported tells me what I should do, I don’t just take their word for it. I do the research and make up my own mind. If you do the same, then you’ll probably understand the endorsement page on my website.
And if you don't, well maybe I’ve given you something worth thinking about as you make your decisions about how to vote on any number of issues.