The political minefield of endorsements

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 29, 2014

Winnipeg Mayoral Candidate Brian Bowman. c. WinnipegFreePress.com
Winnipeg Mayoral Candidate Brian Bowman. c. WinnipegFreePress.com for the Brandon Sun.

Candidate endorsements for a political campaign can be dynamite or they can be an absolute minefield to navigate, depending on their source. Usually endorsements, especially high-profile ones, place more credibility in the candidate they tout and often are accompanied with tidy sums of money to help further the campaign.

For the most part those endorsements — especially the ones welcomed by the candidate — can bring to the forefront a cause supported in their campaign, enhance a platform announcement or provide more visibility and recognition for a politician.

No campaign has made that more abundantly clear this municipal go around in Winnipeg or Brandon than that of Winnipeg lawyer Brian Bowman, who this week secured an endorsement from the king of hockey in Manitoba, Mark Chipman.

Chipman, chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment and the man who brought the Jets back to Winnipeg, threw his support behind the privacy lawyer turned politician — and it could not have come at a better time for his campaign.

Bowman, although considered a strong possibility for Winnipeg’s future, was coming closer to being an also-ran in the company of heavy hitters and perennial politicians Judy Wasylycia-Leis and embattled former provincial Tory Gord Steeves. This was not for lack of trying, though, as Bowman and his team have proved masters at building a volunteer base to prop up his campaign.

Chipman’s endorsement rumours have swirled since way back in June when a private fundraiser was held at the MTS Centre for Bowman and his campaign. The now official endorsement of Bowman was a “sign of the city moving on from the Katz era” as was shared by Winnipeg Free Press reporter and columnist Bartley Kives at the time.

Chipman, like Bowman, definitely has the ear of the Chamber community in Winnipeg, cutting into the support Gord Steeves was hoping for after his campaign sputtered to a halt when his wife’s Facebook foibles came into question. The bigger question is in hockey crazy Winnipeg does Chipman actually secure votes for Bowman?

As for Brandon, it leaves us to wonder where the endorsement game stands. Our current mayor made great strides in securing many high-profile endorsements prior to her first run at the seat.

Names including many prominent CEOs, managers, residents, politicians and activists in this community stood up in a series of very well-timed ads in the Brandon Sun endorsing Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and the vision for Brandon.

Her campaign was well polished, and as the days drew closer to the election, so too were the days numbered for former mayor Dave Burgess and his time wearing the chains of office. For Decter Hirst, endorsements, pronouncements, platform and an astute, well-planned ground game won the election — something Bowman is looking to do in Winnipeg, or at least position himself for another run in four years.

As for challengers Rick Chrest and Mark Kovatch, campaign endorsements may help solidify the base they already have support from. But at the doorsteps with volunteers in tow — as opposed to online or through endorsements — is where it is crucial for either to gain the trust of the city come election day. Interestingly enough as a side note it appears Chrest is the only one to have taken up a website profile as well as social media as opposed to social media alone to share their travels.

But I digress.

On Oct. 22, as politicians always state the endorsements of the voter is the one that really matters, something Bowman may glean from Chipman’s support, although Chipman is someone who commands attention when he speaks.

Brandonites may not have the same level of buy-in when it comes to sway from the endorsement game, but all three of the mayoral camps have been relatively silent on smiling photo-op front thus far, a point that may be indicative of where their priorities should, and likely do, lie for the residents of the city.

As for the campaigns themselves, with Labour Day weekend upon us, be prepared for the full-bore electioneering to ramp up. The “silly season” is about to begin with strong competitors for mayor and a couple of wards with challengers prepped to take place.

The one thing politicians and the community must remember is most elections are a sprint to the finish line. It is the marathon after that is the true test as to whether a leader has the legs to point this city in the right direction.

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Shaun Cameron is a content contributor. A veteran of print, video and television, Shaun is a professional post-secondary employee by day, a filmmaker by night. Check out more of Shaun's work in the menu bar above.

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Shaun Cameron has worked in media for close to two decades. His work has been featured in print, internet, video, radio and television publications. A proud father of two, Shaun lives in Brandon, Manitoba with his wife Karol.

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