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On the value of endorsements

The Chron asks what they’re good for.

Houston mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner has the backing of the city’s three unions. Do you care?

The C Club, a group of top conservative donors, supports former Kemah Mayor Bill King, and a handful of Houston pastors publicly have thrown their weight behind 2013 mayoral runner-up Ben Hall. Will that impact who you vote for?

For most Houston voters, the answer likely is no. Rather, political observers said, a candidate’s ability to marshal support from political power-brokers demonstrates viability to deep-pocketed donors and, in certain instances, provides the campaign with added organizational muscle.

“Endorsements are primarily an inside game that influence money and, on some occasions, votes,” local political analyst Nancy Sims said. “But to the overall voters, it usually doesn’t matter.”

And so, in the quiet summer weeks preceding Labor Day – when voters’ minds were thought to be elsewhere – many in the crowded field seeking to replace term-limited Mayor Annise Parker hustled to rack up institutional support, touting their growing lists of supporters as evidence of campaign progress.

Let’s not overthink this. There are three ways that endorsements, which as you know I track on the 2015 Election page, can help a candidate. One is the organizational support of the endorsing organization. Endorsements from unions, the GLBT Caucus, and the Texas Organizing Project gets you the votes of most of the members as well as outreach from them to like-minded voters who aren’t members. Another is money, as a lot of endorsing organizations are PACs or have them. The police, the firesighters, the realtors, the contractors – all of them write checks up to $10K to their endorsed candidates. Finally, as the story notes at the end, endorsers can be signals to less-informed voters in some elections, or to voters like me who are looking for a tiebreaker between two otherwise equal candidates, especially in a race where one wants to ensure someone favorable gets into a runoff. None of these factors are likely to be decisive in any race, but in close contests where the difference between advancing and going home will be small, every little bit helps.

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