Experts weigh role of endorsements in Governor’s race

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Independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina has received 3 key labor endorsements in the past week.  The latest support is from the state’s teachers union.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel takes a look the developments, and the role that endorsements play in the race for governor.

(Kinzel) Pollina’s endorsement by the Vermont NEA marks the first time that the teachers’ union has backed an independent candidate for governor – they usually support a Democrat.

The union says Pollina’s consistent opposition to a new two vote budget law for high spending towns was a key factor in their decision.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington backed the law in 2007 and then led an unsuccessful effort to rescind it this year.

Pollina has now been endorsed by the teachers, the state employees union and the Vermont Labor Council.  He thinks this marks an important chapter in Vermont politics:

(Pollina) "This is a very significant turning of the tide here in Vermont to have that kind of open recognition and vocal support…around a candidate who is not a Democrat or a Republican."

Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis thinks the impact of most endorsements is limited. But he believes these three union endorsements are important because these groups usually back the Democrats:

(Davis) "For the Democratic candidate not to receive endorsements of the three largest unions in the state says something about the perception of politically active people in Vermont about the state of the Symington campaign."

The Vermont NEA says their support will translate into thousands of workers for the Pollina campaign. Davis isn’t so sure the union can deliver on that promise:

(Davis) "Union members will certainly listen to what their leadership says in terms of voting but in the end they’ll make their own decisions in the voting booth."

UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson says endorsements are news worthy when a group backs an unexpected candidate.  In this case, he thinks the unions are sending a clear message to Gaye Symington:

(Nelson) "We’re not sure your Democratic bona fides are sufficient to warrant our endorsing you and I think that’s going to be very serious news for the Symington campaign…the message is pretty unequivocal."        

Nelson says there is a benefit if a candidate is able to secure a lot of endorsements:

(Nelson) "That indicates to the base that you’re solid you’re one of them so there’s going to be no risk in casting their vote."

There is some endorsement news from the Symington campaign.  They announced that New York Democratic senator Hillary Clinton is supporting Symington because the senator believes that Symington is the best person to deal with the state’s future economic challenges.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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