Do Endorsements Matter?

A few weeks ago we started talking about and comparing endorsements in the local races. Since then, a few more endorsements have come out, including the supposedly-influential Independent Weekly's picks.

A reader recently asked: "Please have a story about least helpful/most harmful personal endorsements. My vote is Moses Carey endorsing Jim Ward."

So what do YOU think, readers? Do endorsements matter? Which ones? Personal or organizational? How many of us bring the Indy voter guides into the booth each November? Whose recommendations do you trust?

Issues: 

Total votes: 149

Comments

I think that few people vote strictly on the basis of one endorsement. That doesn't mean that endorsements are irrelevant however. Voters probably use endorsements as one factor in making their decisions.

Even so, I remember that in the 1990 May Democratic Primary race for County Commissioners, I was so wrapped up in my final exams at UNC that I couldn't follow the race. I decided to vote for the Indy-endorsed candidates. Protection of the Cane Creek Reservoir's watershed was a hot issue at the time and although I knew nothing about the issue, I trusted that my views would be similar to the Independent's. Halkiotis, Gordon and Insko.

There must be some substantial portion of voters who end up making their decisions that way. The fact is that only a very small percentage of voters (2-5% of the maybe 8000 people who will vote in CH = 180-450 people) follow these things at anywhere near the level that orangepolitics.org junkies do. Most people don't vote in local races at all. Those that do vote in local races use lots of indirect information to make decisions. Personal and organizationl endorsements are an important source of indirect information about the race.

Indirect information is so important because, direct information about the campaign is, honestly, hard to assess. I mean do any of us know what a 'state of the art transportation system' is? or what it costs, where it will go, who it will serve, who will pay for it, how noisy it will be, what fuel it will use etc. etc. etc. So voters often look to the 2-5% of people who follow these things more closely.

My post on the School Board Race ( http://www.orangepolitics.org/archives/000067.html ) is a plea for help from the even smaller universe of people who follow school board elections in detail. It is enough for me that I follow Carrboro and Chapel Hill Town races this closely.

I have one to add on the reader's original question about "least helpful personal endorsements." James Coley endorsing Dianne Bachman and Rudy Juliano.

You have to include James Carnahan's endorsement along with Coley's. Both Jameses care about important things, "villages" and transit respectively. But, because they make a fetish of them, they face the pitfall of overlooking the very values that led them to be the advocates they are in the first place. Blinders of any sort make for poor politics. I like what both Jameses contribute politically, but, I wish they'd look at things a bit more broadly from time to time, especially when making endorsements. Of course, we all have flies in our eyes; we just can't see them because we have flies in our eyes.

In response to Mark's comments regarding the proclivity of voters to grab the Independent and head to the voting booth, one need look no further than the example of Gloria Faley. She was skewered in the Indy's election guide, and almost paid with her seat. Carter and Sechrest cast the same votes as she on the "controversial" issues in the race, redistricting and differentiation, so why the huge difference in the vote count? There's a story in the Indy's election endorsements in the school board race which I'm currently pursuing. We shall see if anything comes of it.

would love to see the INDY do a story on itself regarding the school board endorsements. My understanding was on the differentiation issue Kelley, Bedford and Griffin had a similar view while Carter, Faley and Sechrest had a similar one. How do you pick and choose from each list who you endorse? Was representing the residents against the county commissioners why the INDY didn't pick Faley??? Was race a factor in the endorsements? While I like Mr. Sechrest I was never clear on what he stood for that was substantially different than Carter/Faley.

We aren't penalizing elected officials for actually representing their constituents desires for things like school sitings or merger are we???

Excuse me if proper tea-time demeanor is not used in representing the residents. It would seem the logical endorsement stance would be to pick one group of 3 or the other?

I think the Indy describes their reasons for not endorsing Faley pretty clearly, with special emphasis on one thing: the southern park fiasco. One can also make a good case that the merger issue -- seemingly unrelated -- has gained steam among other county commissioners because they're sick of what they perceive to be the financial mismanagement, waste, and disingenuousness of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro district leadership, to include the superintendent, his staff, and the school board. Under this theory, the effort to grab the southern park was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back, and gave Carey's merger proposal more traction among the other commissioners. Merger would allow them to get more control over the district, which they also perceive to be not serving _all_ students as well as it should. That Faley couldn't see that coming, and instead carried water for certain ex-politicos and a dozen or so other pushy sets of parents on a doomed-from-the-start shouting match, might qualify as having not "engendered much confidence that the school board can do its job." This will be forgotten in four years, of course, and I'm certain that the political capital that Faley spent on the southern park issue will have been built up again by then. Anyway, here's what the Indy said:

"Incumbent Gloria Faley has been a strong leader in several areas, but has been a disappointment when it comes to working with the county. When first elected, she was a refreshing, independent voice. But she carried the ball for a poorly conceived effort to persuade the Town of Chapel Hill to give up plans for a park next to Southern Village in order to site the third high school there (cooler heads prevailed, and the site was changed). The school board should never have put the Town Council in that position. Picking a school site is a key land-use planning process that brings into play all of the other land-use planning that boards and commissions in Orange County are charged with. This school board's clumsiness and indecision have left them open to pressure from parents' groups and created ill will with other elected bodies in the county. Faley's combative attitude on the site issue hasn't helped to change the tone or engendered much confidence that the school board can do its job. For that reason, we're declining to endorse her this year. "

Even though the Indy didn't say so, I think a lot of dissatisfation is from parents of "gifted" children who want more resources dedicated to their kids. They seem to see her as wanting all students to be treated more the same, which is easy for me to agree with since I don't have kids.

I think Ruby misrepresents the position of the Partners Advocating for Gifted Education by brushing them off as only wanting more for their kids.

The evidence that I've seen in person and from research gathered by PAGE is that differentiation fails not only those who are academically gifted but those in the middle and at those of lower achievement. As some one who teaches I understand this at a very personal level.

Faley did not help herself by writing to the PAGE mailing list that those parents had "won the DNA lottery."

While it may not seem like it to the childless, having a gifted kid is challenging. And several PAGE members has special needs kids as well as gifted. They said and produced research to support that no one was being well served by differentiation.

Faley feels strongly that differentiation is the only fair solution.

There is clearly a rift here.

But better that we invite some of those involved in PAGE and in other parents groups to participate in this discussion.

It has always blown my mind that there are parents in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro city school district, of all places, who feel it necessary to form an organization called Partners Advocating for Gifted Education. Is there a crisis among gifted students in Chapel Hill? Are they underperforming?

While we sort this disaster out, I call on the parents of the gifted to get more involved, more engaged, in the education of their children by spending time with them on homework and the like. Teachers can't stand in the place of parents who won't participate in the education of their children. If gifted students are not getting the most from the schools, the problem starts in the home!

Wait a second -- I think I've stolen that argument from somewhere. Now where have I heard that before ....

Ruby, Duncan,

We probably need a new thread on education if you want to get into that.

Was Faley's Vote any different than Carter's or Sechrest's on differentiation?

Was there a vote on this? How on votable issues was faley different than sechrest or carter?

Also, I don't believe there are many sites left in the south that can be used for a high school. Of course the park was a BAD idea but I think they were asked to identify "potential sites" which I think meant any undeveloped land large enough (which has very few options). Going beyond that was a bad idea.

I still don't understand why it is in the commissioner's purview to micromanage the school districts. I thought their only legal charge was to fund all the districts in dollars they distribute DIRECTLY to be the same (not federal or local funds which are both already different)? If the county commissioners are so interested now in school sites, curricula, who the superintendent's are etc... shouldn't they run for school board instead????

I thought a lot of us just fought the public instincts to not vote for council members based on school merger. ARE YOU SAYING NOW THAT WE SHOULD VOTE FOR COUNTY COMMISSIONER BASED ON WHERE THEY THINK THE THIRD HIGH SCHOOL SHOULD BE OR WHETHER WE THINK THERE IS TO MUCH WASTE IN THE CURRENT SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION? I thought this was mostly for the school boards? I don't think most parents want the third high school on Eubanks do you want all the southern village parents to vote against Margaret Brown who has pushed for the Eubanks site?

Does the INDY work for the county commissioners?

Was Faley's Vote any different than Carter's or Sechrest's on differentiation?

Was there a vote on this? How on votable issues was faley different than sechrest or carter?

Also, I don't believe there are many sites left in the south that can be used for a high school. Of course the park was a BAD idea but I think they were asked to identify "potential sites" which I think meant any undeveloped land large enough (which has very few options). Going beyond that was a bad idea.

I still don't understand why it is in the commissioner's purview to micromanage the school districts. I thought their only legal charge was to fund all the districts in dollars they distribute DIRECTLY to be the same (not federal or local funds which are both already different)? If the county commissioners are so interested now in school sites, curricula, who the superintendent's are etc... shouldn't they run for school board instead????

I thought a lot of us just fought the public instincts to not vote for council members based on school merger. ARE YOU SAYING NOW THAT WE SHOULD VOTE FOR COUNTY COMMISSIONER BASED ON WHERE THEY THINK THE THIRD HIGH SCHOOL SHOULD BE OR WHETHER WE THINK THERE IS TO MUCH WASTE IN THE CURRENT SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION? I thought this was mostly for the school boards? I don't think most parents want the third high school on Eubanks do you want all the southern village parents to vote against Margaret Brown who has pushed for the Eubanks site?

Does the INDY work for the county commissioners?

Just to point out that the "Paul" above is not "Paul Jones"

New Numbers in at the Board of Elections.

Bedford is in by 32 votes over Faley

http://server1.co.orange.nc.us/elections/muni2003/summary.asp#47

1) I don't think there's any doubt that the other Paul isn't Mr. Jones.

2) I don't even know who PAGE is or what they stand for, so I'm not particularly criticizing them.

3) Here's a new thread about the politics of education: http://www.orangepolitics.org/archives/000079.html

It appears Gloria lost the race after all. A recount found 100 additional votes for Jamezetta.

This is a sad day for gay and lesbian people in Chapel Hil/Carrboro. Having someone at the table who understands the lives of gay and lesbian students was important to us and, I believe, important to the community as a whole. The real losers are the children who have lost an advocate and a role model.

As far as the Indy's endorsement is concerned, I appreciate Duncan sharing the quote with us today. Unfortunately, the Indy's depiction of Gloria's actions vis-a-vis the school/park issue was not accurate. For those who wish to know the truth, I urge you to review the video tape of the Town Council meeting at which Gloria spoke, representing the school board. The record speaks for itself. Gloria was not combative. Indeed, she was stateman-like, calm, direct. The proposal to use the park land for a school came from parents, not the school board. Gloria merely offered to discuss the issue with the council if they chose to pursue it. She was there that night representing the entire school board because the chair could not be there.

Again, the Indy got the facts wrong here. For anybody interested, the video tape shows the truth.

If Gloria didn't deserve the Indy's endorsement because of differentiation and the park issue, then neither did Elizabeth Carter. I for one believe that there are deeper more important issues that one should look at in a school board race.

Carrboro/Chapel Hill would have been better off having an advocate at the table who understands the needs of the 10% of students who are lesbian or gay.

I think we should move this to a new thread, and I will in a second.

But to reply to J, yes I think you should "vote for county commissioner based on where they [we, you] think the third high school should be or whether we [they, you] think there is too much waste in the current school administration." The commissioners have a clearly defined oversight role in the location and building of schools, as well as how the schools spend their money, through their general budget authority, and their specific authority over the schools' recurring capital budget and their capital improvement budget.

For instance, the county has alloted the money to build the third high school in Chapel Hill, but has made that money contingent on the school being built under "smart growth" guidelines. They also control the money for the Southern Community Park because that's bond money, and they would have ultimately had to approve the placement of a school there, if it had come to that.They also have the statutory power to dissolve the district under certain limited circumstances. And certainly, if they think money is being wasted, they have the authority to cut the school system's budget or lower the district tax, which they set. In short, they have considerably more to say about the schools than the Chapel Hill Town Council. Where they stand on various school issues under their purview are legitimate questions for voters to ask.

It's not at all the same as a Town Council member running on the merger issue.

Mayor Nelson

What special needs do gay students have that you fear will be overlooked by a school board sans the gay member?

I honestly think gay people are the same as the rest of us and don't have special needs at school like kids with learning disabilities, gifted students, and others do.

Todd

Mike,

I now feel like I've been participating in some unseemly piling on re: Gloria Faley, in light of this new information. So let me jump ship for a second:

It's hard not to also notice that, given the strong feelings of two of our most prominent local elected officials about the importance of having a member of the school board who is a lesbian, that the Indy didn't mention that little fact about her in their endorsements this year. I've been trying to search the Indy archives for the last time they endorsed her, but I can't find them. I'd be surprised if they didn't mention that she was a lesbian when they endorsed her last time, given the general character and values of the newspaper. I wouldn't credit the thought that the Indy purposely left that information out in order to harm her, but I can see how you might overlook her advantages if you've already made up your mind not to endorse her. That seems human.

I haven't seen the tape of the park/school meeting, and so I have no idea how she acted. I'll take your word for it. But regardless, I still think that lots of folks north of 54 thought she was on the wrong side of the Southern Community Park / school debate. Quite a few people in Dogwood Acres also, who might have been reasonably expected to vote that single issue since the park is of such interest to them. She stuck her neck out on behalf of what couldn't even charitably be called a groundswell, but I will admit that she was doing her job as a school board member to represent the view of her constituents, even if it wasn't close to being a predominant view.

And these PAGE people seem to have had a problem with her, although I'm not quite sure why.

The thing about the Indy endorsements (Full disclosure: I once helped the newspaper with the Chatham endorsements a few years ago) is that they're the most influential in races that haven't captured the imagination or interest of the electorate. You could say that about any set of organized endorsements, but we all know how widely read the Indy is in this community -- it gives their endorsements much more weight than others simply because those endorsements are more widely seen. This isn't to say that they're not also influential in the high-profile races -- I think they're batting average is pretty high in Chapel Hill / Carrboro -- but just that it's more likely that the Indy endorsements hold the key to winning or losing for candidates on the bubble in less-flashy races. And that describes both Faley and Bedford, I think.

Well, I'm sorry she lost like this -- it's got to be heart-breaking to think you've won, and then two days later find out you've lost.

I think the big winner from the election was the INDY and the county commissioners.

NO ONE answered the question - on votable issues (or even conceptual ones) how was Faley different from Carter or Sechrest????

e.g. on council, Strom had different initial votes on Weaver Dairy Widening and the Chiller plant than other members. This is a tangible difference.

Why was she non-deserving of the Indy endorsement but Sechrest and Carter were? Because she upset the commissioners and was more vocal?

Todd,

This is wandering a bit off topic, but I wanted to respond to your question about the "special needs" of gay and lesbian students. I think the most pressing concern is the discrimination and harrassment these students experience. Of course, gay and lesbian students are not the only people who have to deal with bullying behavior, but they tend to experience it disproportionately. Fortunately, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools have been quite good on this issue, in that they include sexual orientation in their written policies on harrassment, health education, etc. Also, I believe the county schools are currently considering some initiatives to deal with bullying as a universal issue.

Aside from these concerns, I think the greatest losses for Chapel Hill-Carrboro will be in exactly the areas that Mike Nelson cited -- having a role model, an advocate, and someone who can understand one's concerns because they've lived them. These are especially important for groups that have traditionally been marginalized.

That's kind of a quick answer, but you get the idea.

Best,

Damon

When I was a kid I recall the kids getting picked on fell into these categories:

1--Overweight, or too thin

2--Short

3--"Ugly"

4--Big boobs at age 12

5--Nerdy

6--Bad at sports

7--Tons of zits

8--Poor english because it is second language

and the list went on.

I can imagine gay kids could be a category with the above, but think bullying is a problem in itself. I do not think one needs to be fat, real thin, short, homely, large breasted, nerdy, clumsy, or gay to represent all of us the same.

Todd Melet

HippyHillNews.com

Todd-

Warning: this is just one person's view. Anyone else out there is willing to chime in.

I graduated from high school about 12 years ago and lots of kids in the group you mentioned got picked on. They got teased. They often got called names. Of course, none of them to my knowledge were physically abused. On the other hand, the high schoolers who even acted a bit feminine (if a guy) or a bit masculine (if a girl) were ostracized and physically intimidated. Not exactly the kind of environment where it's easy to learn. They were ALL in the closet.

I think the idea here is not to treat the gay kids "specially" but to allow them to exist in the school environment and be adolescents and grow up without the fear of physical violence. I couldn't even think of coming out at my high school. Luckily many of the kids in the Chapel Hill schools are out and are able to deal with their adolescent issues as adolescents. These kids will be well adjusted and have the chance to function in society rather than be marginalized. It seems like a win-win to me. Having Faley in at the school board level was not only a symbolically important way to keep the gay/lesbian/trans students from feeling intimidated, but she also had the experience needed to advocate for them.

My$0.02,

Rickie

I think bullying kids for being gay, or any of the many items I listed is wrong, and needs to be stopped at schools. In fact, I believe that bullying is one of the biggest problems next to gangs in schools.

I am not gay, but I think that I could do as good of a job standing up for all kids as a gay person. I think the candidate who appears to have won can do the same. I think the lesbian who appears to have lost could have done a good job too in this area.

In FACT, the candidate who appears to have won today supported the school boards 2001 decision to kick the Boy Scouts out of Chapel Hill/Carrboro schools. She is not gay, and her husband is the leader of a local Boy Scouts troop.

My point is simple...you do not have to be gay to want to stop chastizing of gays, or any other group of kids.

Todd

Earlier in this thread, Duncan wondered about what the Indy had said about Gloria Faley in its endorsement of her in 1999, her first run for school board. In particular, he wondered if the endorsement mentioned her sexual orientation. The answer is no, it did not. (The full text of the 1999 endorsement is offered below in the final paragraph of this post.)

In 1999, Faley was undoubtedly "openly lesbian" in her personal life and in her pre-school board professional life. Yet, in the context of her school board race in '99, I do not recall any _overt_ references to her sexuality -- not in media articles or endorsements, not in her campaign literature, not in her answers to candidate questionnaires. To be sure, Faley wasn't hiding anything; the issue of sexual orientation simply never came up in the race. In the candidate profiles published in the newspapers, in the space where other candidates indicated marital status, Faley clearly identified her partner by name. As far as I saw, in every piece of campaign literature and every media profile, Faley mentioned her work as a member of the Orange County Human Relations Committee and as a founding member of OGLA and, in at least one case, she identified what OGLA stood for (Orange County Lesbian and Gay Association). She may have even occasionally mentioned her role earlier in the decade as a tireless and outspoken activist in the effort to get the district to include sexual orientation in its diversity education plan. But a casual-yet-attentive voter in fall 1999 most likely did not have any exposure to the _direct_ fact that Faley was a lesbian.

So, the Indy's failure to identify Faley's lesbian status in 1999 should be viewed in the context of that race. It is possible that the Indy endorsement board was unaware of her orientation. However, it is more likely that, even though they might have been aware, they took a cue from Faley herself. That is, when one is openly gay/lesbian in their personal and professional (quasi-public) lives, that does not _automatically_ transfer to being openly G/L in the electoral arena where your success is dependent on complete strangers making personal judgments about you. For the Indy to identify Faley as a lesbian in that endorsement would have been encountered by many casual voters as equivalent to an "outing". And, even though such an "outing" would've likely gained even more votes for her, I believe that the Indy probably demonstrated a certain sensitivity in focusing its endorsement on more relevant school-related issues. Like, um, rocketry.

From the Independent Weekly (Oct 27 to Nov 2, 1999):

>>>> A volunteer teacher of "rocket science" in area schools and youth

programs, Gloria Faley is affectionately known by local children as the

"Rocket Lady of Chapel Hill." A past PTA president and a founding member

of Stop Overcrowding Schools, Faley wants to make hiring and retaining

outstanding teachers a top priority by establishing teacher-incentive

programs through local area businesses--for example, providing 10-year

interest-free loans for home purchases to teachers and school staff. <<<<

"I believe that the Indy probably demonstrated a certain sensitivity in focusing its endorsement on more relevant school-related issues"

I don't think they did this to be sensitive. They were just sticking to what was relevant for an elected official who deals with education.

I have spoken to many folks who wanted her re-elected and many who don't particularly like her. I never heard anything about her sexual orientation. You could fit all the voters who really cared about her being gay into a phone booth.

I don't know whether this comment will show up anywhere since this is an archive page, but I thought I would give it a try anyway. I am proud to be compared to James Carnahan, and I don't think we "have flies" in our eyes. But, of course, as Yoyo says, if you have flies in your eyes you don't see it because you have flies in your eyes. And I don't think our endorsement of Bachmann and Juliano was "unhelpful." In any case, I am open to criticism but am a bit stunned that because there are some of us in progressive Orange County politics who specialize in certain areas (smart growth, transportation reform) that this means we have a fetish. It's not that at all. It is just that this is a particular area we specialilze in. While this might make what we say predictable, that is not something that I see as a problem.

Just a response to Todd Melet's comment about gay students:

"I honestly think gay people are the same as the rest of us and don't have special needs at school like kids with learning disabilities, gifted students, and others do."

I can tell you very specifically that gay students face many challenges everyday in our high schools. They are afraid and they are confused. Remember for a moment how confused you felt as a teenager about your own sexuality. Remember for a moment how confusing just being a teenage was. Now, add to that the feeling that if someone found out your sexuality that you might be called names and ridiculed. if someone found out, that your parent might find out and not accept you as a person. All of these are real fears for a gay student.

CHCCS is the only school district in the state that reachs out to gay students and works to offer them a safe place. But, even in our school district, children are still called "faggot" or "dyke" with the slightest of ease. Thankfully, there are many, many very brave teachers and students (both gay and heterosexual) who are aware and fight hard against all forms of discrimination. I have been humbled by the courage and sensitivity of these individuals. But, I have also been on the phone many a night with a teenager on the other end crying. The other students around that teenager didn't even know that he or she was gay. But, their comments were hurtful and harmful just the same. Their comment still drove that student farther and farther into the dark.

I am very glad that you are against bullying of any sort. But, please understand that gay teenagers often live their lives in silence and in fear. That fear comes not just bullying but from the causal comments that allows that gay teenage feeling "less than". They get it from the media, from their friends, and from some churchs. This is not just a simple "teenage" thing.

Also, remember gay people have children. In Chapel Hill, there are many gay parents out there. Now, remember how awkward you felt as a teenager about your parent's sexuality. Now, imaging listening to friends refer to your parent's sexuality in a negative way. You love your parents, but you don't want to be seen as different. The pain and confusion is quite hard.

Please open your heart to these issues because there are many children out there who need for you to understand their situation. Having read your other posts, I am certain that you will.

Thanks for listening.

 

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