This is the second of a three-part series on what campaign endorsements are, how you get them, and what progressive campaigns often have to weigh when planning endorsement outreach. In part one we covered what endorsements are and what they provide for candidates. Now let’s talk about how to get them.
It’s a good idea to have scripted answers to common questions and talking points on your main issues. This can come from the campaign materials you already have and from your message guidelines. Don’t have a campaign plan or messaging plan? Get on it and check out our campaign checklist here. These pre-baked ideas will serve you for the following:
- Interviews & Presentations
Endorsement questionnaires are the most common process for securing support from an organization, party, or person. They can be time-consuming, nuanced, and occasionally get publicized so you want to be sure what you include in your questionnaire is what you will stand by on your campaign and in office.
Labor and union organizations will have key priorities for their membership, often specific to their industry, location, and demographics. In the greater Seattle area large union organizations often ask questions about collective bargaining, right to work, project labor agreements, prevailing wage, apprenticeship utilization, and more.
Organizations with predominantly retiree constituencies will ask about pensions, retirement funds, long-term care, and cost of living adjustments (COLA). Those with predominantly young working families in their constituencies will ask about childcare, housing affordability, a just transition to a green-blue economy, and more. We’ve provided some sample questions from former and current questionnaires below, but be sure to do your research and know who your audience is.
- Teamsters Joint Council 28 asks “Will you support the right of all working people to form a union and negotiate collectively over wages, benefits and workplace conditions?”
- In the form of Agree/Disagree Pro-Choice Washington asks if you “support a patient’s right to access abortion in Washington State.”
- The Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund asks “If elected, how will you take leadership to ensure that everyone in your community can live in a safe, healthy, affordable home?”
- The National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington asks “How have you promoted the economic, political and social equality of women and/or non-binary people in your personal, volunteer and/or professional capacity?”
- IBEW 76 asks “What have you done to support labor and/or its issues and why should labor support you?”
- King County Democrats ask “Washington has one of the most regressive tax structures in the country. What steps would you take to make our tax system more fair?”
You should treat questionnaires like a cover letter and have a bank of scripted, repeat answers to the most common questions like “What are your top three campaign issues?” and “Why are you running for office?” Like a cover letter, tailor your responses to the audience, the mission of the organization you are aiming to work with, and use their own priorities to frame your answers. When in doubt, tell them you’d love to share more about your priorities during your endorsement interview.
Interviews & Presentations!
Legislative Districts, Editorial Boards, and some organizations require you to make a presentation. You’ll want to cater your presentation to the group in front of you– highlight the issues they care most about, talk about how your work will impact the community they represent, and be ready to answer questions about the issues you disagree with them on.
Some organizations remain non-partisan because of their financial or organizational structure. Instead of offering an endorsement, these organizations may offer candidate forums where you can present yourself and your campaign to their membership and make the case for why they should support you. Your opponent may also be invited to participate in the forum, giving you an opportunity to differentiate yourself, challenge your opponent’s platform, and identify what energizes your opponent’s base versus your own. Prepare by watching forums from years’ past to find common questions, ask for the questions ahead of time if possible, write talking points for your priorities, and practice for on-the-spot questions.
The processes can vary for securing endorsements but one thing is always true: participation and preparation secure endorsements. You’ll need to set aside some time, particularly if you’re a new candidate, to draft written answers, build out written materials for your campaign, schedule and attend interviews and participate in forums.
Check out our next blog post on weighing which endorsements to pursue as a progressive campaign.