To Endorse or Not to Endorse; Is that the Question?On January 28th, 2012 the Pennsylvania’s Republican State Committee will convene in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for their
annual winter meeting. One of the questions placed before the members will be whether or not to endorse candidates?
Hopefully, committee members will carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of endorsing.
Common reasons given by Pennsylvania Republican State Committee members who support the endorsement process are:”It is our job as a committee person.”
“We are vetting the candidates.”
“The voters won’t know who to vote for if we don’t endorse.”
“Some financial backers will only donate to the endorsed candidates.”Candidates who win the endorsement benefit by being able to claim that they are the “endorsed candidate” of the Republican Party.
They also benefit by gaining access to party resources such as data, professional advice and financial support. While this is a
tremendous advantage to the candidate, endorsement is not what is best for the Republican Party and the election process.
Candidates who fail to win endorsement are often, if not customarily, shunned by party leadership. A case in point is the February
23, 2011 memorandum from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania which was sent to county chairs regarding county party cooperation
for endorsed candidates which stated: “…As a partner in this process, the State Party counts on our county committees to assist
our endorsed ticket in every way possible…. As members of the PA GOP and leaders in of county party, we request that you strictly
enforce the following longstanding traditions:
Only candidates endorsed by the PA GOP should be recognized and/or allowed to speak at official events such as
county dinners, endorsement meetings, candidate forums, etc. Endorsed candidates and staff should be able to attend
gatherings as complimentary guests. (NOTE contradiction between points 1 and 2.)
All candidates for statewide office that attend a Republican Party function in your county should be given time to speak
– if only for a brief period of time.
County Chairs, county party staff and county party members should only be circulating petitions for statewide candidates
who have been endorsed by the PA GOP.
County Chairs, county party staff and county party members should only be distributing materials for candidates that
have been endorsed by the PA GOP.
“County Chairs should decline any promotion materials from non-endorsed candidates.”
Such tactics nullify the concept of a free and open primary. Furthermore, candidates who remain in the election after failing to
receive endorsement are often the subject of attack ads funded by the Republican Party which are far more damaging than attacks
by an opponent. This is an official denunciation by the Republican Party which should be supporting a field of qualified candidates.
Such attacks against candidates damage their chances of winning in the general election and may also damage them in future
elections. Wasn’t Ronald Reagan’s eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”?
Only three states endorse candidates before the primary: Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. One member of Pennsylvania’s
State Ccommittee recently interviewed political directors, state party liaisons and executive staff in other states. She inquired why
their state party chose not to endorse before the primary. Some of their responses are:
“We want to show unity at the state level.”
“It is important that we maintain a level of trust and respect with the leadership, the rest of the party and the voters.”
“Endorsement angers the grassroots people and we want them to be involved.”
“If the endorsed candidate doesn’t win the election, it looks bad for the leadership and hurts the party.”
“We want to be able to support all Republicans that run for office…..when you endorse, you run the risk of turning good
It just isn’t the right thing to do…..not the principled thing to do. The people should be able to decide, not the party. Most of the time the party leaders just pick their friends and that is not letting the people decide.
The disadvantages of the endorsement process far outweigh the benefits. Committee members are guardians of a sacred trust;
elected by the citizens of their senatorial district to facilitate the political process, and to assist qualified Republican candidates, not
to narrow the playing field. Endorsements before the primary divide the party and waste precious resources. The purpose of the
primary is to allow the voters to decide which candidate is worthy of running in the general election. By trying to narrow the
primary contests to single candidates, the Pennsylvania GOP is subverting the primary process. Controlled endorsements
before the primary: clip the wings of fellow Republicans; frustrate the electorate; divide the party; waste precious resources;
and undermine our conservative principles of equality and freedom. This is not a game; the stakes are high.
State Committee Members, Allegheny County, Jim and Sue Means, 3485 South Park Road, Bethel Park, PA 15102