Insights | Resources | Political Strategy

Showcase Your Values Through Endorsements

This is the third 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. Check out part one & part two for a breakdown of what endorsements are and how to get them.

So you’ve got a general sense of how to get an endorsement. What endorsements do you need for your campaign? That will depend a bit on what level of office you are running for and what your priorities are. Generally speaking, you’ll want endorsements that correspond to the level of government you’re running: ie. If you’re running for a city position, get some city level endorsements. This will also mean you’ll expand your endorsements as you rise or run for larger, more important offices. But it also might be that you need particular endorsements because you care about a certain issue or represent a particular community. Your endorsements should mirror your priorities.

As we mentioned, endorsements can also signal particular allegiances, positions or ideas. And some of them come with money or capacity support. So let’s talk a bit about some of the big folks to consider.

Labor: When endorsements come with goody bags.Labor endorsements are pretty important for many progressive campaigns– especially because they can come with money and/or capacity for your campaign. They are the heavy hitters of progressive politics and they signal support for workers and institutional muscle. Labor endorsements often come in groups. Snag one and the others will follow. While they are often very important, there might be reasons you don’t prioritize labor endorsements. Labor and environmental organizations can clash over best practices and priorities. Building trades and tenant associations may clash over housing policies and rental laws. Some unions represent folks across industries, including in public safety and law enforcement which may be against your platform or personal interests. You will have to determine the utility of receiving an endorsement and what comes with it, including being called on to take meetings with lobbyists meant to persuade you.

Environmental and Labor: A story of frenemies and competing priorities.Many progressive candidates want to run green, worker friendly, progressive platforms. And honestly we wish we lived in a work where all our values could live together in harmony. But unfortunately, sometimes labor endorsements and environmental endorsements are at odds with one another. Not all labor is wildly progressive and not all environmental orgs have taken a look at their privileged hiker friendly platforms so sometimes these endorsements can undercut one another instead of co-amplifying. You might need to get strategic about your slate.

BIPOC Endorsements: Virtue signaling versus serving community. We’re glad to say that things have evolved in recent years. It used to be the case that communities of color were treated as a monolith where endorsements were concerned. Campaigns went for OneAmerica, the NAACP, the ACLU and called it good. We’re slowly (very slowly still) beginning to acknowledge that communities of color are wildly diverse and have all kinds of different priorities. All this to say: think about the communities you actually serve, want to work with or will represent. What are the issues they care most about and what organizations work on them? This kind of critical thinking is important when it comes to any community that gets tokenized. Don’t just check a box- consider the community and their concerns and make it a real part of your platform to gain their support.

Pro-Choice Endorsements: How to protect your endorsers.Endorsements are great and you should get whatever ones you can. That said, endorsements should also be deployed strategically. Not every endorsement should be used for every written material or event. There are two considerations here. First, you might want to think about which endorsements you tout in which places: if you bring a bunch of pro-choice endorsements to a rural community that’s deeply anti-choice, it might not serve you well. Additionally, there might be times where you actually need to protect your endorsers. They might be facing pushback in a certain community or might need their name removed from certain kinds of materials. Ask them how and when you can use their name and then honor their responses.

Endorsements are important to building a winning campaign. But they should go beyond the campaign and inform your time in office. If you’ve secured an endorsement, that should be the beginning of a lasting and accountable relationship. Make use of endorsements as you govern. Learn from the folks who helped get you into office and listen to them as you set your priorities. You’ll need them on your next run.