Sunday September 23rd 2018

The making of a presidential endorsement

Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump: These are just a few of the candidates hoping to be sworn in as the next president of the United States in 2017. It’s clear that another presidential election is upon us, and as evidenced by the intense media coverage thus far, the nominating process has begun much earlier than in past campaign cycles. As the race begins to take shape, there is no better time to brush up on the American Nurses Association’s involvement during presidential elections.

Although there is no mandate to endorse a presidential candidate, ANA follows the 1985 House of Delegates resolution directing the association to engage presidential contenders of all parties in endorsement considerations. ANA’s presidential endorsements are made according to a deliberate, nonpartisan process, which includes careful consideration of various factors, including direct member input. ANA has endorsed a candidate in each presidential election since 1984.

Presidential endorsements create an avenue to political access at the highest level, providing access to candidates, their committees and their extensive networks, and potentially lasting relationships with the media, national political parties and other politically engaged individuals and organizations.

The primary purpose behind any political endorsement is to support candidates who share ANA’s positions and perspectives on nursing and health care issues. A secondary advantage is the opportunity that elections — particularly presidential elections — offer for member engagement in the political process and in ANA’s policy, legislative and regulatory goals.

The ANA Political Action Committee Board of Trustees is charged with overseeing the presidential endorsement process, and the five-member, bipartisan Presidential Endorsement Task Force convened in August to kick off this work. The task force members are Elizabeth Dietz, EdD, RN, CS-NP, ANA\California (chair); Faith M. Jones, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Wyoming Nurses Association; Gayle M. Peterson, RN-BC, ANA Massachusetts; T. Ray Coe, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, Tennessee Nurses Association; and Pat VanMaanen, MS, RN, Arizona Nurses Association.

Per the 1985 resolution, the ANA-PAC board and its Presidential Endorsement Task Force will work with ANA Government Affairs staff through the endorsement consideration process, which includes:

• Circulation of a questionnaire to all candidates to gauge their level of support for ANA’s core policy issues.

• Examination of candidate voting records, past history in public office and stated policy positions in relation to ANA’s legislative agenda.

• Interviews with potential presidential candidates.

• Online polling of the ANA membership for their preferred candidates.

All of these factors are considered together by the task force and ANA-PAC board, which then makes an endorsement recommendation to the ANA Board of Directors. The ANA board will vote whether or not to ratify the PAC board’s decision.

It’s important to note that the PAC board’s endorsement recommendation typically represents a choice among three positions: no endorsement or support of a candidate; supporting one or more candidates during the primary elections; or supporting a candidate after the party nominating conventions.

ANA recognizes that as voters, individual members consider a variety of  factors — such as the economy, national security and education — in personally deciding which candidate to support. However, as a professional organization, ANA considers candidates based on who will best serve the interests of the nursing profession and patients. Political parties or personal agendas do not matter in this process, and ANA will offer no political support without thoughtfully analyzing a candidate’s past record and views on nursing.

ANA urges all members to get involved politically to ensure that nurses’ voices are heard during this campaign season. Please visit ANA’s Government Affairs website in the coming months for more information about the 2016 presidential election and to track the ANA endorsement process at www.rnaction.org.

— Monisha Smith is a senior political action specialist at ANA.

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