For a long-time advocate of openness in the civic realm, the candidate endorsements by the People for Portsmouth Political Action Committee were epoch making. Many organizations in our city and region — the Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Steering Committee, the teachers association, the firefighters’ union, the police association, the realtors’ association, to name a few — select their favorite candidates, bestowing praise and often contributions upon them. Some of these groups vet candidates through a nominally competitive process involving questionnaires and interviews for everyone running; others, anoint their champions in backrooms without any notice to non-members that they are deciding whom to endorse. Whatever the process, as private organizations they are free to choose whomever they like for reasons known only to members of the selection committees.People for Portsmouth, however, has been far more public than the others in compiling its endorsement list. It began by sponsoring a series of forums for mayor, city council, and school board candidates. The early ones were for those who had announced their intentions to run; the later ones, for those who had actually qualified for ballot status. Using a set of criteria explained on their social media and web sites, PfP winnowed the field of six mayoral, ten city council, and eight school board hopefuls to the one, three, and four, respectively, who received their endorsement today. Still, none of this is particularly unusual.
The groundbreaking piece of the process, though, is that PfP explained, candidate by candidate, what led them to choose that individual. Although I do not agree with some of the choices — and I may have more personal bias in this regard than the average informed citizen — I am greatly impressed that this organization voluntarily disclosed what guided its decision-making process. I believe that disclosure is not only a credit to PfP but a bar raiser in terms of the political process overall.
If you were not present at the announcement ceremony today, PortsmouthCityWatch.org was there as your surrogate. You can view the proceedings as they unfolded by clicking here. Additionally, PfP President Pam Kloeppel granted us an exclusive interview in which she discusses the evolution of PfP and where it goes from here. We hope you will find them both informative.