Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2018

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Columnist Erin Neff: Only endorsements that count are by voters

FOR CANDIDATES, an endorsement from anyone other than their spouse or mother seems to validate their bid for office.

So there's no question why endorsements take center stage in ads, mailers and, often, in debates.

But what narrow-minded candidates seem to forget, as they decry the politicalization of the endorsement process, is that only one endorsement matters -- the one from voters.

As Early Voting nears, candidates hype their backers by affixing stickers to their road signs and pose for grip-and-grins with the "heroes" (post-9-11 lingo for firefighters and cops) who endorse them.

And those without the official letter of support are left grumbling about the back-room deals that left them out of the loop.

Consider -- Democrat Mike Davidson, who has defended Metro Police in dozens of officer-involved shootings, can only point to Mesquite for his law enforcement endorsement.

Why? During a recent televised debate he blamed the political deals that result in endorsements.

His opponent, David Roger, has all the big law enforcement endorsements -- and held separate press conferences to announce support from the Las Vegas Police Protective Association and later the Nevada Conference of Police and Sheriffs, of which the PPA is the main member.

Davidson's spin now is that police organizations won't endorse someone who has spent time as a defense attorney, as Davidson has. And he says, Roger -- a career prosecutor with a 95 percent conviction rate -- will just "give the cops what they want."

Roger says that's just election spin and promises to be fair and independent.

While it's arguable that law enforcement endorsements are important to offices like DA, sheriff and attorney general -- those endorsements don't have a very good track record this election.

NCOPS first supported and then pulled its endorsement of Democratic congressional candidate Dario Herrera amid concerns about his personal finances and ethics. NCOPS President Andy Anderson first came out in support of the marijuana initiative, Question 9, but later pulled the group's endorsement and resigned his post in the process.

Yet Anderson is still popping up in Jon Porter for Congress mail saying he didn't want to be "embarrassed" by endorsing Herrera, Porter's opponent.

There's no mention that Porter, the Republican, doesn't have the endorsement either.

Sandy Smagac, a candidate for a new district court seat, has a flier showing her with nine police officers and hyping "police support." Her opponent, Chief Deputy District Attorney David Wall, got the PPA's endorsement.

So the PPA, and Wall, cried foul.

Democratic controller candidate John Lee is also claiming his opponent, incumbent Republican Kathy Augustine, is "manufacturing support."

Lee says Augustine's ad in the October issue of Desert Saints magazine lists 14 endorsements, although two of those groups have endorsed him and three of them have not endorsed either candidate.

John Hunt, a Democrat running for attorney general, says he doesn't have any major law enforcement endorsements because every organization had already endorsed Republican candidate Brian Sandoval before Hunt entered the race in March.

So Dave Kallas, president of the PPA, felt "compelled" to step into another race -- this time in a letter to Hunt arguing that the candidate canceled two meetings to discuss his candidacy with the union's executive board. He also suggests Hunt may have support from some cops who he served as a divorce attorney.

Of course the word divorce was italicized, suggesting first that Hunt is just a divorce attorney (which he isn't) and that somehow a divorce attorney shouldn't be attorney general.

During a debate Thursday, Sandoval asked Hunt why he tried to deflect attention from his lack of endorsements by decrying the process as a "back-room deal."

Hunt answered that it is an insider's game, because political consultant Kent Oram works for both the PPA and Sandoval.

The suggestion? Oram went to the PPA and told it to endorse Sandoval.

"If you're telling me it's a back-room deal," Hunt said to Sandoval, "fine."

With all the griping over the back-room deals and political process that is inherent with endorsements, voters get a glimpse of character in action. And on Nov. 5 they'll be the ones with ultimate endorsement.