When an endorsement isn’t really one

A few weeks back, we wrote about how ranked-choice voting has made campaign-season endorsements a little more complicated. Or maybe it makes them less complicated, depending on which side of the endorsement you fall on.
For the people or groups making the endorsement, they no longer necessarily have to make a tough decision between two candidates they prefer.
With ranked-choice voting, they can pick one candidate as their first choice, but say that if they don’t win, they would be perfectly happy with candidate two, who they would put as their second choice on the ballot.
It’s an easy way out of a making a hard choice.
If you happen to be the first choice, that’s as good as an old-fashioned endorsement regardless of the type of election.
However, if you are the second choice, which is happening more and more often, it’s a little trickier to promote that you were endorsed but also reveal that you weren’t exactly the first choice, that there is another candidate that is preferable to you.
But what do you do if you are one of three candidates endorsed, and the person making the endorsement doesn’t even reveal the order of their choice? Were you even really endorsed at all?
That’s what happened when State Senator John Liu announced that he was endorsing John Choe, Ellen Young and Sandra Ung to replace Peter Koo in the City Council, but he never said who was his first, second and third choice.
“Voters can vote for up to five candidates by ranking their choices one through five, and I urge my fellow District 20 voters to rank these three candidates as their top three choices,” Liu said in a statement.
When he shared his comments about each candidate in a press release announcing the endorsements, he even made sure to state that he was doing so in alphabetical order so as not to imply a preference.
Ranked-choice voting makes it possible for Liu to say that he thinks they are all fine candidates for the post, which is a perfectly fair sentiment to have. However, if voters are only allowed to vote for one candidate as in past elections, endorsing all three wouldn’t make any sense.
The press release announcing the endorsement(s) did say that Liu would reveal his first, second and third choices at a later date.
Again, this makes things tricky for the candidates, who would love to announce they have the support of somebody as well known in the district as Liu, but in reality were only one of three candidates he actually supports.
So they just ignored that little fact.
Both the Choe and Young campaigns sent out press releases along with photos of them alone with Liu announcing the endorsement without mentioning the other two candidates.
Ung went a different route and doesn’t even mention it a list of other endorsements on her website. Maybe she waiting to see if she is Liu’s first choice.
We’re not sure how the Board of Elections is going to handle the logistics of ranked-choice voting to ensure timely election results, but we love the new layers of strategy it is bringing to this year’s primary.

Liu, Meeks back Shafran in City Council race

Austin Shafran was joined by Congressman Gregory Meeks and State Senator John Liu outside the Bayside Long Island Railroad station last week. Both announced they were supporting Shafran’s bid for City Council.
“Having known Austin and his family for years and worked with him inside and outside of government, I know that he has the right experience and deep motivation to deliver for our communities in the City Council,” Liu said.
“We’ve seen what happens when certain power hungry politicians pull a bait-and-switch on voters,” he added. “And that’s why it’s important we elect Austin Shafran as the real and reliable Democrat that Northeast Queens deserves.”
The “power hungry politician” Liu is likely referring to is Shafran’s opponent, former state senator Tony Avella, who held the same northeast Queens City Council post from 2001 to 2009.
In 2014, Avella joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of renegade Democratic state senators in Albany who allied themselves with Republicans.
Avella and his colleagues dissolved the IDC in April of 2018, but the four years they caucused with Republicans was a major issue when Liu challenged Avella for the seat later that year.
Liu would eventually go on to win the Democratic Primary and eventually the post.
In addition to Avella, the other Democratic candidates in the race include Adriana Aviles, Francis Spangenberg, Richard Lee and Nabaraj KC.
Liu joins the Queens Democratic Party, several of the city’s largest labor unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU and District Council 37, and others in supporting Shafran’s campaign.
“John Liu is a force of nature, one of the most energetic and effective public servants I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Shafran said. “As proud as I am to have his support in this campaign, I am even more honored to call him my friend and mentor.”
Meeks said Shafran feels the need to serve.
“Some people run for office because it’s about them,” he said. “Austin feels an obligation to give the people the voice then deserve and have earned.”
Shafran said he was just an “ordinary” guy who grew up in Bayside and still calls it home, and is focused on day-to-day concerns like improving education and increasing services for seniors.
“But I guess the ordinary things we do can be extraordinary in these trying moments,” he said. “Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they come together to make their communities a better place.”
The Democratic Primary will be held on June 22. Early voting begins on June 12.

Why endorse one when you can back two?

A few weeks back, we wrote that endorsements would be hot commodities this election cycle with so many candidates running in local and citywide races.
After all, there would only be so many major endorsements to go around – such as those from labor unions and prominent elected officials and community leaders – before candidates would have to start scraping the bottom of the barrel (no offense intended!) to prove they have a broad base of support and deserve your vote.
But we forgot about ranked-choice voting, which this year will allow voters to list their top five favorite candidates in order of preference
That means if you are a candidate, just because you weren’t the first choice of say the UFT or PBA, doesn’t mean you can’t court one of those unions to state that if they had to pick a second candidate to back, it would be you.
We wondered how many candidates would swallow their pride and go after those type of endorsements, but as it turns out, the endorsers themselves are ahead of the game.
Two elected officials from northeast Queens recently decided to endorse not one, but two candidates in two different City Council races.
Assemblyman Ron Kim announced that he would be co-endorsing both Ellen Young and John Choe in the Democratic Primary for the City Council seat being vacated by Councilman Peter Koo at the end of the year.
In a statement announcing the “first-of-its-kind” endorsement, Kim said he believed both would be “worthy elected leaders for the community.”
Of course, Young was eager to publicize that Kim had endorsed her, so she sent out her own press release touting his support. Naturally, there was no mention of the fact that Kim also endorsed one of her opponents in the race.
About a week later, State Senator John Liu announced he was endorsing two candidates in the Democratic Primary to replace Councilman Barry Grodenchik. But unlike Kim who co-endorsed two candidates, Liu actually stated his preference.
He announced that Linda Lee was his first-choice candidate, followed by Jaslin Kaur at number two. Liu said Lee would “be a most thoughtful and effective member of the City Council,” but also said Kaur would “lead District 23 towards guaranteeing dignity for all.”
We’re so confused!
Lee also sent out a press release announcing the endorsement, which makes sense because she was the top choice. But Kaur seems perfectly content to be a close second in Liu’s eyes. She posted news of the endorsement on her website and social media channels, making it very clear that she was indeed Liu’s second choice.
We guess not only does ranked-choice voting mean that candidates can still get the support of a group or person who has already endorsed their opponent, but it also gives an out to the endorsers who don’t have to choose between two people they already have close relationships with.

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