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An `endorsement’ by any other name …

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Sep. 30, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
September 30, 2009 2:39 pm

Adorning the endorsement rolls on the campaign websites of Tacoma mayoral candidates Marilyn Strickland and Jim Merritt is the same prominent name: Booth Gardner.GovGardner

The former Washington governor and Tacoma resident is heralded as a top supporter by both campaigns.  He’s the first name atop a long list of familiar names on Strickland’s site, and at the top of Merritt’s endorsement page, which prominently proclaimed (as of this morning) in bold letters:

We are honored to have the endorsement of former Governor Booth Gardner.

So which campaign can truly stake claim to Gardner’s endorsement?

Well, both — and by logical extension, neither.

I spoke by phone today with Gardner, who told me that he, indeed, endorsed both candidates.

“It’s one of those rare times when I felt both of them can do the job,” Gardner said.

Gardner explained that he’s “known Marilyn for some time, and I’ve gotten to know … Jim Merritt over the course of the campaign.”

Asked which candidate he’ll be casting his ballot for, Gardner said he hasn’t decided. So effectively, he gives neither candidate an edge, canceling out each of his endorsements.

But would the voting public, when perusing each candidate’s campaign literature, know that Booth isn’t publicly anointing either candidate?

I asked each camp today what they thought of tacking a “co” in front of the word “endorsement” on any list including Gardner’s name.

After a long discussion, Merritt’s campaign manager Ronnie Bush said she would have the Merritt website changed to include a “co” before Gardner’s endorsement. Bush, a veteran campaign consultant, said it isn’t a common practice and she has no doubts about Gardner’s endorsement.

“Booth said to Jim while I was there that he felt Jim would make an excellent mayor,” she said. “I really consider that a strong endorsement.”

But, Bush added, “I would want to be fair about it.”

“I will ask Hazel Consulting, which does our website for free, to put the `co-endorser’ in front of (Gardner’s name),” Bush said “… I think it’s the fair thing to do for the private citizen who might be looking at this.”

Strickland, who today noted she received Gardner’s endorsement before Merritt’s campaign asked for it, said it’s her experience that it is not uncommon for people to give dual-endorsements in political campaigns. She said she has no plans to change her literature to note Gardner’s dual support.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” she said. “If the governor is endorsing both of us, it’s truthful for each of us to say in campaign literature that we’re being endorsed by him.”

“I don’t think the language `co-endorsed’ is typical,” Strickland added. “I’ve never seen it. Have you?”

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