The El Cerrito Democratic Club has been an important part of the political landscape in El Cerrito, Kensington, and the West Contra Costa Unified School District literally for decades. However, at our August 27 Endorsement Forum, we ended up endorsing only 4 candidates even though voters will be asked to vote to fill 11 seats.
Since California voters approved the misguided policy of allowing the top two – and only the top two – finishers in the primary election, regardless of party affiliation, to advance to a general election, there has been a lot of maneuvering by weaker candidates to block the official California Democratic Party endorsement of stronger candidates, especially in the post-primary election season. It is a tactic that we can expect to see more and more often as Democrats battle Democrats all the way to November. In the “good old days,” when the top finisher from each party became that party’s candidate in the November election, opponents had a Kumbayah moment, and the party united behind the candidate with the stronger finish.
However, now those days are gone, and we will see Democrats – good, solid Democrats, like Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris, Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson – campaigning in opposition to each other.
This is not, and should not be, the example offered by the El Cerrito Democratic Club. Our process for determining our endorsements provides information to our members about the candidates in our pre-endorsement newsletter, as well as an all-day candidate forum where our members can listen to, question, and evaluate all candidates who seek our endorsement. To vote NO ENDORSEMENT, at that point, is to forsake our responsibility to lead!
Our Club has long been respected for making informed endorsements and sharing our conclusions with other voters in El Cerrito and Kensington. However, this year we had so many votes for “NO ENDORSEMENT” that we didn’t endorse at all in FOUR races: AC Transit, BART District 7, District 1 Board of Education, and Kensington Police and Community Services District. In the West County Unified School District and El Cerrito City Council we didn’t endorse a full slate!
Perhaps we had voting members who believed that a “NO ENDORSEMENT” vote was neutral, and would have no effect on the outcome. If so, it is our responsibility to let them know that “NO ENDORSEMENT” counts as a vote, and becomes part of the denominator when calculating the 60% needed to win our endorsement. Thus we may decide to include “ABSTAIN,” which will not have this effect, as a vote choice at our next endorsement forum in 2018.
However, to members who intentionally voted “NO ENDORSEMENT” to create a situation where the El Cerrito Democratic Club produces no recommendation to make to voters, I say “SHAME ON YOU!” Our Club has a reputation as providing informed political leadership from a progressive perspective. I hope that in future, we will unite to take that responsibility seriously.