It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the Colorado Education Association (CEA) — the state’s largest teachers union — is not exactly likely to endorse a Republican candidate in a statewide election. Last week the union sent out an email to its members that began:
About 20 Association members, representing 40,000 fellow members, recently interviewed candidates for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat. These members decided that CEA should wait until the August 10 Primary Election to recommend a U.S. Senate candidate to our members.
The process these members used was to invite all the declared candidates in both major political parties to complete written questionnaires about public education issues and appear for personal interviews. The interview team invited Sen. Michael Bennet (D), the incumbent; Andrew Romanoff (D); Ken Buck (R); and Jane Norton (R). Bennet and Romanoff participated fully in our questionnaire-interview process, but the Republican candidates declined to do so.
Guided by this process, the interview team declared that both Democratic candidates are strong supporters of public education and our Association’s positions on education issues – and that our Association will wait until August 10 and then recommend the candidate who wins the Democratic Primary.
I contacted the Jane Norton campaign to see what they had heard from the CEA and what their response was. They didn’t remember receiving a questionnaire, but said they “were asked to attend a PAC interview.” The only reason I decided to write this up was the colorfully crafted response of Norton spokesman Josh Penry:
There are a lot of Republican teachers who support Jane, and Jane taught herself for a while. But we concluded that we’d have a better chance of earning an endorsement from Andrew’s mom or Senator Bennet’s butler, so we respectfully declined the interview.
Indeed. Similarly, I don’t hold my breath every year waiting for the CEA Christmas card that never comes to my house. But it’s funny to watch the elusive two-step some candidate-endorsing groups take to pretend they are strictly non-partisan entities. Thus the union’s email to members concludes:
The recommendation to wait until the August 10 Primary Election means that our Association is giving equal weight to the two Democratic candidates and encour-aging Democratic members to work and vote for their favorite. It also means that our Association will not recommend a Republican candidate because neither participated in our process.
To union leaders’ credit, the email was followed by links to each of the four major Senate candidate campaigns. But you have to find interesting the weird dances created by the juncture of partisan political campaigns and the U.S. tax code. Now on to something more serious…