Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Declining special interest groups' endorsements

After my candidacy for mayor became public record a lot of things started happening. First, there's the official correspondence from the county clerk warning me to be careful about campaign finance laws, advising me of the limits, due-dates, and other lines I'll be careful not to cross.

What I didn't expect were letters I received from special interest groups and political action committees (PACs) asking me to complete a questionnaire to test if I qualify for their endorsement. If sufficiently impressed (or if craftily completed) I may also have received contributions to the campaign. I know this because campaign contributions are public record and I've seen these groups' contributions on other Ferndale candidates' finance statements.

While I was filling out the forms a curious thought came to me--none of these groups can actually vote. While their endorsements might persuade some voters they could just as easily upset others. The only entity that represents all of a voter's interests is the voter. On election day votes are the only endorsements that count.

So for this election I've decided not to seek any special interest group or PAC's endorsement. If I can't raise the money I need from Ferndale businesses and citizens there's little reason to sell a piece of my office to special interests for a mere couple thousand dollars.

I sent four letters last week, one each to The Triangle Pride PAC, Right to Life of Michigan, Sierra Club, and the Michigan Consolidated Association of REALTORS® (MCAR). Each one started with the same paragraph. Here's the one I sent to MCAR:
Thank you for the invitation to respond to MCAR's questionnaire for candidates seeking its endorsement for November 6's election. I've decided not to seek any special interest groups' endorsements to avoid the appearance of impropriety or suggest I may need to return the favor of the endorsement after elected to office. I believe the most important endorsements I will receive are from Ferndale's business owners, its residents, and ultimately its voters.
Following the introduction I included a paragraph-or-two summarizing my position regarding each group's cause, then included a closing paragraph with a thank you for their dedication to the issues most important to them. Here are selected paragraphs from each.

Be assured a major part of my platform gives attention to Ferndale's tax base. Both commercial and residential real estate play important roles growing our tax base, lowering our millage rate, and attracting new businesses and residents to our city. This is not only critical when the market is down, but to planning Ferndale's future as a healthy real estate market is an important ingredient to any community's business and residential vitality.

Thank you for your interest in Ferndale politics, your dedication to our business and residential communities, and your understanding.
Ferndale already provides curb-side recycling as well as other environment-friendly services and policies. To promote a “greener” city it is my intention as mayor to encourage citizens to do what they can to reduce their carbon emissions, to recognize citizens' accomplishments and reducing their power or water consumption, recycle, and reward those citizens that have gone above-and-beyond to protect the environment.

Thank you for your interest in Ferndale politics, your dedication to the environment, and your understanding.
Triangle Pride PAC
My commitment as mayor is to treat all Ferndale's citizens with respect and insist that all city employees and contractors do likewise. Every visitor to and resident of Ferndale should be treated professionally and courteously no matter what special interest groups they may identify with or may advocate for them.

That promise extends to not leveraging Ferndale's GLBT community or other minorities to score points with outsiders or further my political career or personal agenda.

Thank you for your interest in Ferndale politics, your dedication to civil rights and our community, and your understanding.
Right to Life of Michigan
As important as abortion and choice are to individual Ferndale citizens, municipal government is an inappropriate forum to address these issues. Attempts to do so can only be symbolic, and as such have no impact on state and federal legislation or Supreme Court rulings.

I was adopted by loving parents when I was four-weeks old and appreciate both the gift I received and my mother's choice of adoption. I'm committed not to squander either.

Thank you for your interest in Ferndale politics, your dedication to the unborn, and your understanding.
Sure, I may regret not having multiple Good-Housekeeping
®-like Seals of Approval on my website or campaign literature and their contributions in my committee's bank account, but I won't be obligated to or need to excuse my actions as Ferndale's mayor to anyone other than Ferndale voters.

I can live with that.


  1. Wonderfully well thought out and presented, Tom. You're the best, and Ferndale needs you to lead the government.

  2. A principled stand. Refreshing. Where do we find more candidates like you? Can you send some out towards Grand Rapids? Our last Mayoral race was pretty much a nightmare.


  3. In all my professional years, I am disgusted at the double standard that most politicians live by -- the pretty picture for the public eye and the true behind closed doors actions and statements. In this regard, I am terribly disappointed in the double standard being set by the Gange campaign. At a private party you and your wife commented on how "we cannot let a gay man run this city." It is a shame that society still has closed-minded individuals not only raising our children to such standards, but also trying to run our towns. So, continue to paint your pretty picture, but be assured you do not have my vote and I am spreading the word.