Endorsements come in many colors

In campaigning for the Madison School Board, I learned something that may be useful for voters. There are two very different kinds of political endorsements.
Endorsements that candidates seek. Some candidates seek the endorsement of organizations. In these situations, the organizations endorse the candidate only if the candidate passes its litmus tests. Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) has this kind of process. Candidates are invited to complete a very long and detailed questionnaire and must appear before the Political Action Committee (PAC) to explain their answers. Endorsed candidates receive direct financial assistance from the PAC and help with the campaign (leafleting neighborhoods and get-out-the-vote phone banks). The PAC also buys “independent” radio and newspaper ads supporting the endorsed candidate.
Endorsements that candidates do not seek.. There is, however, a second kind of endorsement. Candidates who run as “independents” do not seek organizational endorsements and PAC funds. They do not make promises to move the organization’s agenda forward. They make clear that they are not seeking PAC funds. Nonetheless, the organization decides independently to support the candidate. The organization decides without consulting the candidate. It exercises its independent right to buy ads in support of a candidate. In the April election, ads from the “Get Real” organization are an example of the second kind of endorsement.
Big picture? Independent candidates–as in the April 4 school board race—offer value choices to voters. They stand as individuals. They ask for support for their goals. The only promises that they make are the promises to the voters. If elected, they are free to work for the values that the voters shared. They are not in the position of the candidates who owe their election, at least in part, to organizations that have their own interests.