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Do campaign endorsements matter?


The Rochester Teachers Association is backing Tom Richards for mayor. - FILE PHOTO
  • The Rochester Teachers Association is backing Tom Richards for mayor.

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards leads the endorsement chase in the mayoral primary contest pitting Richards against City Council President Lovely Warren. Richards is endorsed by the Empire State Pride Agenda, Representative Louise Slaughter, and the Democratic, Independence, and Working Families parties. (He joked that the WFP endorsement probably made some of Rochester's business elite itchy.)

The lack of endorsements may not bother Warren, though, since no one's really sure if endorsements equal votes. And it kind of fits into Warren's narrative that her campaign is about the underrepresented and underserved people of Rochester -- people without a union or organization to rep them.

On Monday, Richards picked up the endorsement of the Rochester Teachers Association. (Read Richards' education plan.) Richards preaches support and stability when it comes to the school district. Frequent leadership changes and political battles have done nothing to improve student outcomes, he says.

Warren says she's not against the district, but after 30 years of decline, city residents deserve choices, including charter schools. (Read Warren's education plan.)

Skeptics could easily read the RTA endorsement as self-preservation. And, since most of the RCSD's teachers live outside the city, it's unclear how much weight the union carries with average city voters.

And Richards' argument could backfire if people look at the RCSD's decades of dreadful performance and mismanagement and think that "support" is the last thing that place needs. That's especially true if they blame teachers for the mess -- fairly or not.

But remember, too, that the RCSD is a significant employer in the Rochester area. Not just for teachers and administrators, but also for the recipients of the thousands of dollars in contracts the RCSD awards annually.

If people believe that Warren's pro-charter stand jeopardizes their livelihood, could that swing them to Richards? The tea leaves are tough to read.