As with any political race, there will come a time when anyone and everyone will sound off on what candidate they are supporting for mayor and why you should do the same. But will endorsements affect the November local elections?
Some, like that of the local wing of the Democratic Party, can tip the scales, especially for City Council and School Board races, says James “J.J.” Minor, who serves as chairman of the 150-person committee. In 2012, three upstart council candidates — Parker Agelasto, Jon Baliles and Michelle Mosby — stunned incumbents after earning endorsements from the committee, Minor says. Mayor Dwight C. Jones, too, emerged victorious from a three-way race in 2008 after winning the committee’s approval.
Not all endorsements carry the same weight. But with eight candidates in the mayoral race and about 50 others running for Richmond City Council and the Richmond School Board, it stands to reason that a reputable organization or former elected official vouching for a particular candidate could provide an edge. And it can, just not in the way you might think, says Richard Meagher, a political science professor at Randolph-Macon College and observer of local politics.
At the local level, a civic association vouching for a candidate could sway its members, but that may not mean much to the public at large, Meagher says. Instead, an endorsement’s value lies in whether it validates a candidate for donors who can infuse a campaign with cash and clout.
“It’s an issue of credibility and viability rather than winning over voters,” Meagher says. “But credibility and viability gets you other stuff that helps you win over voters.”