NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC is following an endorsement strategy this year that bears comment even leaving aside the controversy over its endorsements raised earlier today here in the exchange between District 18 Candidate Natali Fani-Gonzalez and NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC.
Most interest groups endorse up to as many candidates as there are seats to be filled. Occasionally, groups will endorse more candidates that there are seats available. For example, the League of Conservation Voters endorsed four candidates for the three House of Delegate seats in District 18.
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC has taken a unique two-tier approach. The PAC endorses up to as many candidates as there are seats up for election. At the same time, they all give a “100% Pro-Choice” rating to other eligible candidates that do no receive the endorsement.
Like the endorsement, candidates are free to tout this 100% Pro-Choice rating in the literature and other communications. I already received a blast email from Jordan Cooper proudly touting his rating in strongly pro-choice District 16.
Is the PAC devaluing NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s endorsement? After all, voters are unlikely to distinguish easily between the endorsement and the 100% Pro-Choice rating. Candidates are less likely to sweat their endorsement process since the consolation prize is such a good one.
While this strategy encourages all candidates to take strong pro-choice positions even if they are unlikely to receive the PAC’s official endorsement, it somewhat weakens the incentive for incumbents to cultivate their support during the legislative session that makes policy.
I suppose it also makes the endorsement process a bit easier as the decision makers know that good candidates who don’t get the endorsement won’t walk away empty handed. We’ll see how it goes and if other organizations follow NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC’s lead.
Natali Fani-Gonzalez, one of the challengers to the three incumbent delegates in District 18, was naturally thrilled to receive the following email from Maida Schifter’s email account with NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland on April 4th:
I would like to congratulate you on earning NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC endorsement. We are excited about your candidacy and look forward to working with you as we advance the agenda for reproductive rights in Maryland.
We will be issuing a press release and posting to social media about our endorsement on or about April 14 and at that time will also make available an NCPM ENDORSED logo for your use. Our staff will be happy to answer any questions you or your campaign may have.
Thank you for your service.
Endorsements like these serve a number of valuable purposes. In strongly pro-choice districts like D18, it serves as an excellent imprimatur that the candidate is “right” on a set of issues important to voters. They are especially valuable for challengers as they further attest to the seriousness and often viability of a campaign–great for helping to attract additional support.
However, it apparently was not meant to be. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC Chair Edward Terry called to say that the letter had been mistakenly sent out by an intern. Here is Natali Fani-Gonzalez’s email response to that phone call which she sent yesterday on April 9th:
Hi Maida –
I have just received a phone call (8:24 pm) from your NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC Chair Edward Terry. He stated that you are an intern at NARAL Pro-Choice and that you mistakenly sent me an endorsement letter five days ago (your email below) on behalf of your organization. Moreover, I received a phone call from NARAL a few days before your endorsement announcement to further inquire about my answer with regards to the taboo of reproductive-rights within the Latino community. During the call, I was also informed that my answers to the questionnaire were great.Excited about the news, I announced your endorsement via Twitter and received lots of great feedback.However, Mr. Terry’s story is flawed:
2. I know that incumbents in D18 were disconcerted with the endorsement.
3. I know that a “serious organization” such as NARAL will never allow interns to distribute sensitive information such as political endorsements.
Over the past decade, I have been part of numerous Boards, including Goucher College, Emerge Maryland, the Maryland Latino Coalition for Justice, to name a few.Therefore, I would appreciate if you do not insult my intelligence with such frivolous rationalization.
The true story: you decided to take back my endorsement under external forces’ pressure.