How endorsements can help set similar candidates apart

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 6:51 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - With six weeks to go until the August primaries in Vermont, the congressional campaigns are heating up. But with the leading candidates in lockstep on policy, how can voters make a choice?

Becca Balint and Molly Gray broadly support the same policies. So voters instead have to look to endorsements to see who supports the candidates and what types of leaders they would be.

The race for Vermont’s open congressional seat has been defined, in part, by a slate of endorsements.

Political scientists say there’s a bigger emphasis on endorsements this year as they are a way to show where candidates stand within the party ideologically.

“The endorsements, in this case, are providing cues to the voters to say this is what this candidate stands for,” said Matt Dickinson, a political scientist at Middlebury College.

This spring, Becca Balint received endorsements from dozens of current and former state lawmakers. Balint is seen as further left on the scale, earning the seal of approval from congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal and several labor unions.

But she has also won endorsements from more moderate voices, too-- Treasurer Beth Pearce, former Democratic Party chair Dotty Deans and the Vermont State Firefighters’ Association.

Typically, party figureheads such as Sen. Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch stay out of the primaries to not tip the scales. But many of their close political allies have come out in support of Molly Gray, along with former Govs. Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin. That’s in addition to the Vermont State Employees’ Association, in an effort to cast herself as the more pragmatic pick.

Former congressional staffer Sianay Chase Clifford has been endorsed by Vermont’s Progressive Party.

In August, voters will not be voting along party lines, so campaigns are also turning to other ways to signal support. You may have seen a campaign ad for Balint which pairs her on-screen with WCAX News Anchor Darren Perron. Dickinson says it appears Balint is aligning her candidacy with a trusted local voice.

“That implicitly signals something to the viewers-- at least this is what Balint is hoping-- that she is more than an acceptable candidate. She is someone that has the support of this guy that we know from his daily newscasts,” Dickinson said.

As for that video, WCAX did not authorize its use, nor do we ever endorse candidates.

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