Wednesday, September 15, 2010

FACT CHECK: AG Candidate Rotellini's AZ Republic Endorsement Abuse, etc.

(Correction: This report has been corrected to properly reflect that the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce did NOT endorse a candidate for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.  The gist is correct, however - that there is still no guarantee that Ms. Rotellini will receive the Chamber's endorsement for the general election.)

While Republican candidate Tom Horne earned double fact-checking attention yesterday for his efforts "... Trying To Make Lemonade In the AG's Race" - an interesting effort to use the Republic's (negative) fact check on Horne to (re-)shed negative light on his opponent - today, the spotlight turns to Democratic candidate Felecia Rotellini.

In an e-mail sent out this morning, with a subject line of "Sneak Peak – Arizonans for Rotellini!" and a not-quite-matching headline of "Felecia Rotellini is your Community’s Choice for Arizona!", the campaign boasts of Rotellini's endorsements: 

"Felecia has over 40 endorsements including the Arizona Republic, Arizona Correctional Peace Officers, Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, the Professional Firefighters of Arizona, and the Arizona Association of REALTORS."
The problem with that claim is that the Arizona Republic only endorsed Ms. Rotellini for the Democratic primary election.  Not the general election.  In fact, the Republic - which has apparently not yet noted this claim - also endorsed opponent Tom Horne for the Aug. 24 primary. (Republic: "Republicans - In a race featuring two flawed candidates, The Republic recommends Tom Horne for his record of progress as state schools' chief. Democrats - She has more experience than her opponents. She is ferociously smart and likely to be formidable in the fall if she wins the Democratic nod. The Republic recommends Felecia Rotellini.")

The other endorsements listed in today's e-mail all appear to be exclusively for Rotellini.  However, the above-quoted sentence links to her website's endorsement page, which still contains at least one primary-only endorsement.  The influential Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce endorsed Rotellini - but not Horne - for their party's nominations; however, Chamber VP Paul Parisi confirms that they are conducting a new round of endorsement interviews next week before determining who they will urge their members to vote for in November.

Both the Republic and the Tucson Chamber made it clear to the candidates (and the public) that the endorsement was for the Aug. 24 primary election only.  Further, most political insiders know that the newspapers tend to endorse candidates for their party's nominations in the primary, and that that does not reflect who will be endorsed for the general election.

To inadvertently leave a primary-only endorsement up on the website is one thing.  But, there is no excuse for a campaign to actively publicize a primary-only endorsement during the general election campaign.

Minor point: The e-mail claims "over 40 endorsements"; the endorsement page on the website lists 16 organizations (and does not include the Republic or other newspaper endorsements).  The only way the campaign gets to more than 40 is by counting the individual endorsements (mainly from fellow Democrats) or by including a lot of new endorsements that are not yet up on the website (unlikely).  It is hard to see the benefit in pumping up the number of endorsements in this manner.

CONCLUSION:  Campaigns brag about endorsements because they help make the case to potential supporters that newspapers, organizations, etcetera have already vetted the candidate and support her (or him).  So, endorsements lie at the union of organizational support (money, volunteers, etc.) and potential voters. Abuse of endorsements is pretty common (fires flared up in both Democratic and Republican primary battles).  And, while it seems minor, it is necessary to police the use and abuse of them precisely because they mean something.

Rotellini's active mis-use of the Arizona Republic primary-only endorsement is false and misleading.  Her claim deserves a grade of  "F".

We welcome your feedback about this post. If you know of other endorsement abuse, or have something else on your mind, please comment here or e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com. Thanks.

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