Do political endorsements matter? It depends on who you ask

August 5, 2018 GMT

Political endorsements rarely make or break an election, but some candidates — and their endorsers — remain convinced getting the right statement of support is crucial to securing office.

That mindset is particularly acute in this year’s District 5 legislative race, in which four Republican candidates are seeking two seats in the Arizona House of Representatives. Endorsements came into focus last month after one group, the Fraternal Order of Police, publicly withdrew its support of Paul Mosley after he was caught on camera telling a sheriff’s deputy he drove 140 miles per hour on Interstate 10. In the weeks that followed, Mosley has efforted to let voters know what other groups and politicians still support his campaign.

“Endorsements can be a double-edged sword depending on the constituents you represent,” said Linda Binder, a former Arizona State Senator from Lake Havasu City. “They can be a wonderful tool if you have an endorsement from credible people who are recognized and respected by the people in your community. However, if you don’t care for the people or group organization doing the endorsing you tend to shy away from that candidate…you are only as good as the credibility of the people endorsing you.”

Of the District 5 candidates, Regina Cobb has the longest list of endorsements, including Congressman Paul Gosar, Mohave County Supervisors Gary Watson, Hildy Angius, Jean Bishop and Lois Wakimoto, Havasu Mayor Mark Nexsen and Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady. She also lists the Fraternal Order of Police, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and the Greater Phoenix Chamber, among approximately 15 others.

Additionally, Cobb and Leo Biasiucci are both being endorsed by Havasu resident and First Vice Chairman of the Mohave County Republican Party Sam Scarmardo.

Scarmardo wholly believes in the power of his political nod. In 2016, Scarmardo purchased an advertisement, published in the News-Herald, suggesting his picks for the general election. Nine out of 10 of his suggested yes votes won that year, including Mosley and Cobb. The ad did not mention Biasiucci, who ran as a Green Party candidate in 2016.

“I don’t mean it in a critical manner but a lot of electorates, the voters, are kind of unschooled on what these people stand for,” Scarmardo said. “So I think the endorsements carry a lot of weight and I do tend to most the people out here, have had fundraisers or go to their meet and greets.”

He added that people call him all the time for input about who to vote for on Election Day.

Endorsements listed on Biasiucci’s campaign website include Sen. Sonny Borrelli, Mohave County Supervisor Jean Bishop and the Greater Phoenix Chamber, among other state representatives. State Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican from Oro Valley, and the Fraternal Order of Police are also listed as Biasiucci endorsers.

Mosley’s campaign website lists A+ ratings from the National Rifle Association and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a few awards and names of almost 10 state representatives. Spotted throughout Lake Havasu City, Mosley’s campaign signs state that he is “NRA Endorsed.”

Laurence Schiff, chairman of the Mohave County Republican Party, explained that there is a difference between being endorsed by someone or an organization and being A+ rated. Endorsements are statements of support while ratings are grades ranging between A and F given to legislators based on their answers to questionnaires about how they would vote on certain issues, he said.

“The problem with rating scales is it does depend upon what you rate and there are certain people who are accused of voting to the scales, in other words, they look at what folks are rating for and they want their rating so they’ll vote for things even if they don’t believe in them to try and get a higher score,” said Schiff.

Mosley was A+ rated by the NRA in both the 2016 primary and general elections, according to the Washington Post.

A representative with the NRA did not respond to Today’s News-Herald’s inquiries about Mosley’s apparent endorsement and A+ rating for the 2018 election. Mosley also did not respond to multiple calls from the News-Herald about the matter.

Jones-Esposito’s endorsements include Bullhead City Councilmembers Steve D’Amico and Sheila Shutts, La Paz County Republican Committee Chairman Russell Sias, among other former elected officials. She also lists the Republican Liberty Caucus, Arizona Citizen Defense League PAC, Sonoran Alliance and Arizona Chapter Associated General Contractors as endorsers.

McCord Robinson stated that she is declining endorsements as she is running a clean election. She added that she is recommended by the Arizona List.