Groups endorse candidates, ballot measures and hope members listen in Nevada County
The political endorsements began rolling in months before most people began thinking about the June 7 primary election.
They came from a contractors association, a farm bureau, the local Republican and Democratic parties and more. The groups staked out their picks, sometimes after candidates had approached them for the endorsement.
These public endorsements are important on the local, nonpartisan level, where some races like the Board of Supervisors come with no party label, according to Michael Deaver, a political science professor at Sierra College in Rocklin.
Deaver gave the example of a teachers’ union endorsing a particular candidate for the school board.
“It’s the kind of interest group that people say, ‘Well, they know best,’” he added.
There’s no school board seat up for election this June, though groups making endorsements hope their word carries the same weight.
The Sierrans for Responsible Resource Development, which has about 50 members, represents the interests of resource industries in the Sierra Nevada region. Forestry, mining and some recreation activities are under its purview.
David Watkinson, president and chairman of the Sierrans’ board, said he wants the endorsements to reach his membership and then hopefully spread to those who show interest in the resource industry.
According to Watkinson, the Sierrans asked Duane Strawser, a candidate for the District 1 seat on the Board of Supervisors, to speak to his group. It didn’t speak to his opponent, Heidi Hall. The Sierrans then endorsed Strawser.
“We will endorse candidates from time to time, when we think it’s appropriate,” Watkinson said.
Hall has received endorsements from the Nevada County Democratic Central Committee, the Nevada County Democratic Women’s Club and the Stationary Engineers Local 39, among others, according to her website.
The Nevada City Police Officers Association usually doesn’t make endorsements, though it opted to back Nevada City councilman Strawser after he asked the group, said Tim Ewing, the association’s president.
“He asked and we mulled it over and we came to a decision,” Ewing said.
The group has six members, though Ewing said the association’s endorsement could be far-reaching.
Debora Totoonchie, manager of the Nevada County Farm Bureau, is unsure if her group’s endorsements will extend beyond its 400 members.
“Basically, we’re reaching out to our membership and letting them know these are the candidates we support,” she said.
The Nevada County Contractors Association also has made endorsements. A group of 330 members, it’s composed of small businesses like contractors and building material suppliers. The NCCA’s political action committee, chaired by Keoni Allen, is a separate organization dedicated to identifying and supporting political candidates who understand small business and support it.
According to Allen, NCCA members look to the group for advice and information about issues and candidates that affect their business. His group meets with candidates and then endorses those it believes will have the most positive impact on local business.
“I think there are people in the community that respect the thought of small businesses,” Allen said. “We’re all in this together.”
The NCCA PAC opted against taking positions on Measure W, the controversial medical marijuana outdoor grow ban, or Nevada City’s Measure Y, about short-term rentals.
The California Association of Business, Property and Resource owners, however, did weigh in on Measure W. The property rights group that supports limited government opposes the initiative.
Formed in 1993, CABPRO has undergone convulsions over the past few years. Nevada County court records show the group filed suit against some of its board members, alleging they seized the organization’s website, records, bank accounts and office. A judge in 2014 dismissed the suit. Kim Janousek, one of the defendants, said in an email that only two board members remain. CABPRO no longer has membership, but instead has an online newsletter about local property rights.
Conversely, the Nevada County Republican Women, which says it has some 200 members, supports Measure W. Smart Approaches to Marijuana of Northern California, with Don Bessee as its executive director, also supports Measure W’s passage. He represented the pro-Measure W side at a forum this month.
Bessee at that forum said his group has no card-carrying members. Instead it has affiliations with business and community groups. He mentioned one affiliate, the International Faith Based Coalition, which Bessee said represents 10,000 churches across California.
According to the coalition’s website, it seeks “to unite religions with a common cause to implement drug prevention eduction in their respective congregations with a focus on educating youth.”
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, represented those opposed to Measure W at the forum. His group has different tiers of membership, based on what they pay.
Allen said Nevada County has 1,600 supporters who pay no dues, 400 local contributors who pay under $1,000 each year and about 55 locals who pay over $1,000 a year. It has almost 3,000 dues-paying members statewide.
Deaver, the political science professor, said endorsements can affect voters who recognize the groups. However, he said unions tend to have more influence than a large, national group.
“The unions tend to be the more popular ones,” he added.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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