Candidates tout endorsements as Election Day nears

October 27, 2009

By Staff

Issaquah city and schools candidates rolled out long lists of endorsements — from elected officials, community leaders, business groups and political parties — during the push for votes.

Endorsements provide fodder for campaign ads and reassure voters with questions about candidates. The nods can also provide clues to party affiliations of candidates in the nonpartisan City Council and school board races.

Every campaign Web site in the Issaquah races includes sections devoted to endorsements, and glowing statements from elected officials and residents are sprinkled throughout the sites. The nods are prominent on glossy campaign mailers, too, as candidates work to telegraph their values and visions to prospective supporters.

Marnie Maraldo, candidate for Issaquah School Board Director District No. 2, said she worked hard to earn endorsements from people on both sides of the political aisle.

“It shows you can build relationships within the community and it gives voters a sense of who is backing you,” Maraldo said. “If they feel they are in alignment with the endorser, then they might feel that they are in line with you, especially if they are less informed and haven’t had the opportunity to meet you personally.”

Her opponent, Wright Noel, said he used the endorsement process to gain credence from officials in the education community. Noel said endorsements were paramount, because his involvement with schools has so far been limited to working directly with children in the classroom, and as a coach.

“I needed some endorsements from those involved in the administrative side,” Noel said. “They know what it takes and these people endorse him.”

Social networking

The process to secure endorsements can be delicate. Candidates often meet with prospective endorsers and ask for the nod. Nathan Perea said he treats campaigning as a job interview — with voters as prospective employers. Tola Marts and Perea, vying for the Position 7 City Council seat, are new to city politics. For first-time candidates, endorsements offer legitimacy. Endorsements are also a way for Marts and Perea to burnish credentials.

Perea said he tells potential endorsers, “I would like to earn your endorsement.”

Campaigning for office is “kind of like applying for a job,” Perea said. “You want to give them references.” Marts, meanwhile, spent the early days of the campaign meeting with council members to woo endorsements. In the end, five members of the seven-member board backed his campaign.

For established candidates, like City Council opponents Maureen McCarry and Joan Probala, the process is easier.

“I just call up friends and say, ‘Would you like to endorse me?’” said McCarry, who is seeking a second full term on the council.

Probala said she tapped into a network of people with whom she had worked on city boards and as a community leader in her South Cove neighborhood.

“The people you ask to endorse you have usually worked with you for a long time,” Probala said.

Maraldo combed through the list of people she had met as a schools advocate and volunteer. Then, she set to work on business and labor endorsements, like the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council.

“The first thing I did was ask people that I knew already,” Maraldo said. “Then, ask them who the best people for me to contact would be that they also knew.”

She said she “wanted to make sure there was balance. This is a nonpartisan seat and I want to show my ability to be nonpartisan,” she said.

Noel approached people he worked with in the community as a volunteer, attorney and business owner. He also set up meetings with former school board members.

“To me, the people I wanted endorsements from first were the people that knew what it took to be on the school board,” Noel said.

The strategy worked: Noel earned the endorsements of former board members Mike Bernard, Larry Ishmael and Mike Winkler.

The “endorsements were important, because they knew what the job took, and two, because I wanted to pick their brains about the job and see if it would be a good fit for me,” Noel said.

Big-name backers

Mayor Ava Frisinger said she offered endorsements in the contested City Council races because she admired the steps taken by candidates to get elected.

“I was impressed by the freshness of some candidates and their willingness to do a whole lot of doorbelling — which I think is very important — and willingness to listen to people,” Frisinger said.

The mayor said Perea and Probala asked for endorsements; Marts and McCarry did not. Frisinger said she was not concerned about the possibility of fallout if her preferred candidates lost.

“I think we’re all pretty objective and mature people who don’t personalize these things,” Frisinger said.

The mayor, a former councilwoman, noted how she had served alongside officials in the past who had not endorsed her and vice versa.

Frisinger said she did not want to sound boastful, but she noted how her endorsement could boost candidates.

“I’ve gathered that I have a fairly positive image in the community,” she said.

The mayor, first elected in 1997, will be elected unopposed to a fourth term on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Marts said the endorsements created the potential for a City Council too cozy with the city administration. The candidate said tension “between the two branches is healthy for democracy,” but said he looked forward to working alongside Frisinger if elected.

“If I had to have the endorsement of the mayor or five members of the City Council, I’d rather have the five members of the council,” Marts said.

Councilman John Traeger, who backed Marts and McCarry, said he was unsure of the value of endorsements, but said local races are important.

“Local government affects people’s lives more than the other races,” Traeger said.

State Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, extended endorsements in the City Council races, too. He endorsed Perea and Probala.

The attorney general said he met Probala more than a decade ago, when he was a King County councilman.

“Joan has been very active in the community,” McKenna said. “I have always admired her civic involvement and encouraged her to run years ago for City Council.”

McKenna, a Bellevue resident, compared Perea to former Bellevue Mayor Ron Smith, a 28-year-old, up-and-coming politician when he was elected to the Bellevue City Council in 1993.

“I see in Nate the same creativity and energy that I saw in Ron Smith,” McKenna said.

Probala said the partisan label mattered little in the McKenna endorsement.

“How could you not love Rob McKenna for all the great things he’s done?” she said. “He’s from one party, but he transcends that.”

Potential pitfalls

Councilman John Rittenhouse said endorsements could act as a double-edged sword. The strategy can backfire, he said, if voters recoil from a candidate’s backers.

“You can never really know enough as a voter about what a candidate will do,” he said.

Rittenhouse said he backed McCarry because he was impressed by her background, intelligence and record as City Council president. After Marts entered the race in May, Rittenhouse met with him to discuss the election. Then, Rittenhouse endorsed Marts.

Rittenhouse, a first-term councilman, will be succeeded on the council by Mark Mullet, who will be elected unopposed. Rittenhouse decided not to run for re-election.

Endorsements also carry a potential for pitfalls, candidates said. Though the process allows candidates a chance to make a play for bipartisanship, political reality sometimes intrudes.

McCarry said in certain cases, fellow elected officials felt uncomfortable endorsing her because the officials and McCarry hail from different political parties.

McKenna noted how a potential endorser “wouldn’t want to pick someone who is controversial or has high negatives.”

“I don’t think you can overstate the value of one endorsement,” McKenna said.

Rather, he said, the effect is cumulative. The number of endorsements and backgrounds of the endorsers provides a glimpse of candidates’ credentials and qualities, he said.

Candidates said endorsements possess the power to influence votes — but to what extent is unknown.

“I’ve never not voted for somebody just because a name showed up,” McCarry said.

Councilman David Kappler, the Position 7 incumbent, backed Marts to succeed him on the council. Kappler, a fixture in city politics since the early 1990s, said his endorsement could be a mixed blessing.

“I’m sure it will lose a few votes,” he said.

But the nods are useful, because the nods help voters ascertain how a person would lead if elected, candidates and backers said.

“In politics, you’re always wondering who will agree with you and who will disagree with you,” Perea said.

In the end, however, candidates said the decision comes down to voters’ perceptions of the race and a candidate’s ability to deliver.

“Endorsements provide some legitimacy, but people primarily vote on what they think and what they read, rather just following someone’s stamp of approval,” Noel said.

Issaquah city and schools candidates amassed dozens of endorsements ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Here are three key endorsements for each candidate:

City Council, Position 7

Tola Marts

  • The Seattle Times editorial board
  • Councilman David Kappler, Position 7 incumbent
  • 5th District Democrats

Nathan Perea

  • Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna
  • Mayor Ava Frisinger
  • Eastside Business Alliance

City Council, Position 5

Maureen McCarry

  • The Seattle Times editorial board
  • King County Conservation Voters
  • 5th District Democrats

Joan Probala

  • Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna
  • Mayor Ava Frisinger
  • Eastside Business Alliance

School Board, Director District No. 2

Marnie Maraldo

  • Stand for Children
  • State Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City
  • State Rep. Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton

Wright Noel

  • Brian Thomas, former 5th District state representative
  • State Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend
  • Mike Winkler, former Issaquah School Board member

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One Response to “Candidates tout endorsements as Election Day nears”

  1. Marnie Interviewed by Issaquah Press About Campaign Support « Marnie Maraldo – Candidate for Issaquah School Board – District 2 on October 28th, 2009 10:11 am

    […] Click here for the original article. […]

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