News & Events

Decision time: How the Mass Nurses PAC decides who to endorse

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
March 2010 Edition

Political endorsements are often controversial, so the Mass Nurses PAC board uses a thorough and rigorous evaluation process to decide who gets endorsed and who doesn’t.

First step: Questionnaire
We make contact with the candidate’s campaign, asking them to participate in our endorsement process by completing our questionnaire. The PAC board has developed a comprehensive questionnaire that specifically asks detailed questions about the public policy issues that are important to our members. This questionnaire is reviewed and updated at least yearly. On the current questionnaire, the issues addressed include safe staffing, safe patient handling, workplace violence issues, support for nurses trying to organize, and support for nurses picketing, just to name a few. Candidates who want our endorsement are required to complete the questionnaire in its entirety.

Do they have to fill out a questionnaire?
It is important to have a candidate answer these questions in writing so that in the future, when our legislative issues are being debated, we have a written record of their position.


On the front lines with MNA

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), center, talks with MNA members and staffers during the picket at Boston Medical Center on Feb. 11.

What happens if they don’t?
They are not considered for endorsement! If they aren’t willing to answer our questions, it is highly likely that they don’t support our positions on a variety of legislative issues and aren’t interested in our endorsement. It is important to note that we invite every candidate to participate in our process – Democrats, Independents and Republicans – but in many cases the candidate him/herself decides not to complete the questionnaire.

Next step: Interview
If the answers on the questionnaire are promising, the candidate will be invited for a rigorous interview with members of the PAC board.

What happens if a candidate cannot make it to Canton for the interview?
They are always welcome to participate via telephone, though this is rarely as effective as a face-to-face interview.

How does the PAC board assess viability?
The issue of viability is critical. The point of having a political program is to identify candidates that support the issues the MNA supports, and to successfully elect those candidates. The best candidate in the world does us no good if they have no shot at winning the election. Consequently, a big part of the candidate interview is an assessment of viability. The PAC board will interview candidates for 20-30 minutes, asking a variety of questions that will help assess both the candidate’s positions on the issues and the campaign they are running. These interviews reveal critical information about the campaign plan, fundraising, direct mail and grassroots voter contact strategies. Once the PAC board has interviewed all of the appropriate candidates in a race, viability becomes an important piece of the endorsement decision-making process.

What about incumbents?
Incumbent legislators have a voting record which the PAC board closely reviews when they are considering an endorsement. Consequently, incumbent legislators running for re-election to their current seat are usually able to skip the questionnaire and interview process.

Do MNA members have a voice?
Yes. First, MNA members elect the representatives to the PAC board. These elections are held at the PAC business meeting during the MNA convention each and every fall. Furthermore, any MNA member is welcome to attend the PAC board meetings and listen to candidate interviews. Only elected PAC board members are able to vote on endorsements, but any member can attend and listen. Finally, the PAC board is always interested in the views of local nurses when making an endorsement, so if you have an opinion about your elected officials or a candidate, you should let us know!

Do we always make an endorsement?
No, the PAC board doesn’t endorse in every race—sometimes they elect to stay neutral. It is a difficult balancing act to make the right decision in each and every race, and the goal is always to pick a winner who embraces the MNA positions and values. It is important to note that for federal offices, like congress or president, and for statewide offices like governor or attorney general, the PAC board is not the final decision maker. In those races, the PAC board makes recommendations to the MNA Board of Directors, which makes the final decision.

Final pitch—decision time!
The PAC board considers many complex factors in the endorsement process. It is a comprehensive process that requires research and background work, political savvy and the ability to take calculated risks in picking the right candidate. Our goal is always to help the MNA gain political strength and grow into an even more powerful organization!

To get involved, contact Maryanne McHugh, associate director of legislation and government affairs at the MNA at 781.830.5713.