Thursday, March 30, 2006

For NY's 24th Dems, Bob Ney Reveals Weakness of Insider Campaigning

Yesterday, I was struck by the following bit of news from The Hill, a journal that covers matters related to the US Congress.

"Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has received endorsements from Republican Party chairmen in all 16 counties in his 18th Congressional District, according to a report in the New Philadelphia Times-Reporter. Ney has also received the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party."

Anyone who follows politics at all knows that Bob Ney's political career is headed for the dumpster. Ney has been implicated in more than one corruption scandal, including one involving Jack Abramoff - and Abramoff is preparing to testify against Bob Ney as part of a plea deal.

Bob Ney is about the worst candidate imaginable for Republicans in his district, yet all the Republican Party's county chairs in his district are endorsing his re-election. Why? Well, just as we don't yet know the particulars of Ney's crimes, we don't know the particular motivation of the Republican county chairs.

This general lesson is, however, clear: Endorsements from members of a political party's county committee often have nothing to do with whether a particular candidate is the best for the job, or even the most likely to win an election. Often, those endorsements are motivated by what county committee members believe about how a candidate can benefit them personally, or their regional faction politically. The interest doesn't have to be corrupt, but it is often shortsighted. County committees are often likely to vote to endorse a party insider because they know that such a candidate is more beholden to a local party apparatus, and so will be easier for them to manage.

Certainly some county committee members endorse according to who they believe will best represent their district in Congress. I know that my mother, for instance, who is a member of a Democratic county committee up in New York's 25th District, votes to endorse a congressional candidate according to how competent the candidate is and how well that candidate's ideals match her own. I also know, however, that some members of her county's Democratic committee are not so principled.

The truth is that many members of a county Democratic committee arrive at a meeting to vote on a congressional candidate endorsement not knowing anything about who the candidates even are, much less what they stand for. These committee members just make their way around the room asking who everybody else plans to vote for. I wish I were kidding, but I've seen this happen more than once.

It's not fair to automatically dismiss an endorsement from a county's Democratic committee, but it's also a mistake to take such an endorsement too seriously. The most important endorsement comes from the voters themselves on the day of the primary election. Come that day, most Democratic voters don't even know which candidate their county's committee has endorsed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now that Bruce is out, I am swinging my support to Les Roberts. I hope Bruce Tytler will endorse Les, and will be encouraging him to do that. He would clearly make a better Congressman. I will now be working in Cortland County for the Les Roberts campaign.