No time for a strong partisan in Senate
The recent letter to the editor by Mr. Swap questioned the political endorsement practices of epic, the Employees Political Information Committee of the Alaska Public Employees Association/AFT. It was implied that epic's actions are not in the best interest of the membership. This is not true.
Epic is governed by a 15-member board of directors who are elected by their coworkers from all of the various constituencies within the APEA/AFT: state and local government employees, education and university employees, non-profits, and our retirees.
The epic board spends a lot of time and effort assessing politicians who will best support our organization's interests when it comes to job-related matters. When we roll up our sleeves and start the lengthy endorsement process, the first rule in governing our decisions is to evaluate the incumbent in a particular position. If the incumbent has supported and advocated for the issues we asked for help on, we deem that they have earned the right to our support for their reelection.
When it comes to the political newcomers we decide to consider, we have to take their pre-election statements at face value. Without a record to rely upon, it is very difficult to be able to predict how candidates will eventually support your issues. And everyone knows that some politicians will say anything to get elected.
If the incumbent has performed as promised/requested, and we receive their sincere pledge to continue to do so, epic endorses that candidate without looking at the challenger. Only when the incumbent's record is deficient do we examine the other candidates. After this year's filing deadline passed, the epic board met and endorsed incumbents in 31 of the 58 legislative races. Lengthy questionnaires were then sent to candidates in those races where the incumbents had not earned the endorsement, or it was an open seat.
Our board members then proceeded to interview various candidates, and review responses to the questionnaires. After that, our board met and endorsed candidates before the August primary election. So far this year, epic has endorsed a number of legislative candidates without regard to their political party status. Epic endorsed 17 Republicans, 21 Democrats, and two Independents. These endorsements are available at http://www.epicweb.org.
Now that the primary is over, the epic board will meet and determine if any other candidates should be endorsed.
Our issues are quite straightforward. As voters, people have many reasons for choosing how they cast their vote in public elections. There are many organizations that willingly provide their constituencies with recommendations on candidates; epic is one of those organizations that provide such recommendations.
Epic doesn't make its endorsements based upon the candidates positions on gun control, abortion, party affiliation or their religious preference. Epic makes its recommendations based solely on how we believe the candidate will vote on issues that will affect APEA/AFT members' jobs. Period. That doesn't mean we think all our members will vote our recommendations, but we do expect that those members concerned about their economic interests will evaluate our recommendations, and understand the basis of the endorsement.
However, the real political crux of the Swap letter was about our continued endorsement of Sen. Kim Elton, who has time and again voted correctly on our issues. More importantly, he has been a leader in promoting our issues to other legislators. Sen. Elton has been instrumental in holding the minority members together and using their leverage in securing a necessary budget vote in support of the state and university collective bargaining agreements.
Additionally, Sen. Elton has consistently advocated against further reductions in PERS and TRS, while insisting that the state provide greater financial support for education. Sen. Elton's exemplary record on our issues has earned him the right to expect our continued support. This is how the political process works. If we aren't willing to keep our end of the bargain, how can we expect any endorsed candidates to be faithful to us. Sen. Elton is a faithful friend, and we know that he will continue to support our issues. We know exactly what we are getting, and we like it.
Bruce Ludwig has been APEA/AFT's business manager since 1988. APEA/AFT represents 5,400 state, borough, municipal, school, university, and non-profit employees and more than 2,000 retirees.