CNY Solidarity Coalition

United in defense of our community and our neighbors

The Coalition’s Role in Electoral Politics: A Discussion

As many of you know, a conversation began over the summer about whether or not CNY Solidarity Coalition can and should endorse candidates for office. Some active members would like to see this happen, with the immediate goal of supporting two “homegrown” candidates who have announced they are running for office. Other members would rather see CNY Solidarity remain non-partisan and issue-focused. A committee formed with the goal of preparing a proposal for the larger Coalition to consider, however we soon realized there were too many conflicting opinions for a cohesive proposal to emerge.

After taking some time to reflect, we convened for some very productive discussion. Our goal became to scale that discussion to the larger organization. This has two parts:

  1. pooling and reflecting on the many concerns and considerations that should be held in mind as we move forward to make some hefty strategic decisions that will have far-reaching and lasting effects in our organization and community, and possibly further than that; these concerns and considerations can often be thought of as “pros and cons” but we discovered there are some items that may belong on both lists
  2. pooling and reflecting on a list of ways the Coalition may become involved in electoral politics; this includes facets of what “endorsing a candidate” may entail, as well as other electoral activities (including many ways we already are) that do not involve endorsing particular candidates.

We are bringing this discussion to the Sunday February 11 meeting, and we also want to be sure to open it up to members who may not be able to attend that meeting. We realize the large meetings are not an accessible point of access for all, and we value inclusivity.

Below are two forms we created one on pros & cons and the other on ways we could participate. We need your input for the Electoral committee to create and present a proposal(s) for the coalition on this subject at a future meeting. There is also room for additional comments and concerns in each form. If you are attending the meeting on Sunday February 11 please do not fill out the surveys online. We will be distributing them to everyone at the meeting.

Here is a video of Sunday’s meeting. The meeting was mostly small group discussion but you can hear some of the discussions below.

The forms were open from February 11th – February 18th, 2017. Below are some of the results from online and from full Coalition meeting on February 11th. Thank you for all your feedback.

Ways to Participate in Electoral Politics

Pros & Cons

  1. We have a voice in the community, we should use it to support candidates for office.
  2. Supporting candidates can help us strengthen our media voice.
  3. We don’t want to waste our political capital when we could use it to help candidates who align with our beliefs.
  4. Many of us joined the Coalition to have a political voice.
  5. Many of our members are already involved in political campaigns.
  6. Endorsing candidates will make decision-makers take us more seriously.
  7. We want to help our own members who are running for office.
  8. We want to encourage others to run for office, knowing they have our support.
  9. We want to grow leaders in our organization.
  10. Supporting candidates can help us educate people on the political process.
  11. We have an original, independent voice that can help candidates win.
  12. We can be a counter-balance to money in politics.
  13. We don’t want to sideline ourselves at election time.
  14. Endorsing candidates is a natural progression for the work we are doing within our legislative committees.
  15. Flipping these legislative bodies may be most important thing we can do as a coalition.
  16. We have an opportunity to affect nationally significant races.

Additional Comments

  • If we are to protect our neighbors and our community we need to be protecting the people who are targeted on the ground and in the policy room. We need to get real people elected into office. We need activists to run and win with the support of the people. The way I think we do that is to elect progressive candidates who support rank choice voting. When we have rank choice voting we can break away from this two party system. If we are critical of both parties and support primaries to people who want to run again for office, (ex IDC) I don’t think we would loose our non-partisan status that we currently have.
  • Endorsing a candidate doesn’t prevent us from challenging them on issues on which we disagree if they are elected.
  • 3 Our table didn’t understand this one 4 True, but that doesn’t imply electoral politics 5 Some are 6 Depends on what else we’re doing 9 Leaders take many forms 15 It is an important thing
  • 6 Must be doing other things too (continue our issue-advocacy work)
  • The way I see it, the Coalition so far has been instrumental in taking relevant actions to resist Trump and all. A lot of that has been providing a setting where people can practice and increase their skills and experience and knowledge of the issues and process of politics. Do we need to endorse candidates to continue this work/impact? Endorsing candidates will lead to divisiveness, won’t it?
  • Have a presentation at a future meeting or on our emails on how other organizations handle their endorsements quandary.
  • Most of the above would depend on people agreeing enough to choose alignment on many issues – and – match candidates in their selections on multiple issues, – while – we may not even be training these many issues in the same way many issues like poverty may be wicked problems, where it is tough for people to agree on, what the problem is that said I favor a collaborative approach. Maybe talk all this out.
  • Regarding whether or not to support candidates for office, I wonder if their has been academic research done on this topic and if so what the finding were. Although important to consider, whether or not the coalition supports any one candidate it think it is perhaps worth considering that ultimately each person is free to support any candidate.
  • Three stars marked next to “Flipping these legislative bodies …”; Next to “Supporting candidates can help us educate …”: Relatedly, scorecards and endorsements lower the barrier to participation by would-be voters who don’t take the time to do their own research. Could increase progressive voter turnout
  • I feel we might want to “weave” our organizations, parties, town committee to form a tight knit to work towards common interests, goals, forwarding candidates, growing younger leadership & making tighter communities.
  • One big “pro” is that all elected officials care about is votes.
  • PW wants to endorse candidates–dealing with Dave V vs Rachel M–aren’t we endorsing people? We need to consider how our statements may influence & empower people who are oppressed/marginalized. Voter education, registration & voter rights may be the most effective ways to do this–rather than endorsing any candidates.
  • Dana Balter is already publicly identified with CNY Solidarity. If we endorse her, that could be a tremendous and essential boost. If we do not endorse her, that risks lessening public support for her
  • Can we have a committee or subcommittee that works on this (maybe along with other groups). I guess we sort of do. . . . This group does a great job of supporting each other to become politically engaged and this may become endangered through the endorsement process.
  • I’m sorry to not be more helpful with my responses to this amazing work & survey you have put together (& thank you so much for doing all this!!). I’d like to have more time to think about these things so again forgive me for hardly marking anything. I think as I brought up @ my table–an inverse way of looking at this/these issues–might be to work backward from teh question of how do we make sure that Katko does not get re-elected. How do we use our power/clout/energy/love to influence elections and Katko’s non re-election possible? How can we accomplish the most in these trying times?
  • If we are working with already – elected officials on a given issue, our ability to endorse or not endorse may affect our work. – Don’t know that this is a pro or con – it just is.
  • Possibly pick & choose which races to endorse. Be very particular and only endorse upon consensus.
  • This is such a diverse group of independent thinkers. That it could be very difficult to reach agreement on a candidate.
  • What does this get us? What does it cost us? * I am surprised that I feel as I do. Most powerful way to do this is us to NOT endorse. We are most powerful by staying non-partisan
  • 15 – Ambivalent toward this one: it is an important thing
  • Take your name, SOLIDARITY, seriously, set differences in political parties etc aside and get behind a candidate 100%. Especially in Congressional race, do everything possible to support 1 candidate who can defeat Katko.


  1. Getting directly involved in electoral politics may be internally divisive.

  2. We have members from several political parties (Democrats, Greens, Independents, etc.)

  3. There could be an impact on our relationship with partner organizations (some 501c3s).

  4. We should be concerned/careful about royal “we” and what populations we proclaim to speak for.

  5. Involvement in election politics takes energy/deflects focus from other work.

  6. Coalition resources should be used to directly support people in need.

  7. CNY Solidarity Coalition should remain focused on principles/issues rather than individuals.

  8. Strategically, we should drive the agenda for politicians, rather than aligning ourselves with them.

  9. If we are not attached to one candidate, advocacy for issues allows us to challenge all candidates.

  10. Devising an agreed-upon vetting process for candidates may be a long, complicated, potentially divisive process.

  11. Our vetting process shouldn’t rely just on internal Coalition relationships.

  12. We could lose good will with other candidates when we align with one.

  13. If our candidate loses the election, we may have trouble forming a relationship with the winner.

  14. Once they’ve secured our endorsement, candidates may not feel the need to listen to our recommendations.

  15. We might be viewed as attached to a candidate we supported when they do something against our values/harmful to marginalized populations.

  16. We may not know all of the candidates well, or as well as we think we do.

  17. New candidates may enter the race after we’ve made our endorsement.

  18. There are inherent problems with being overly associated with the Democratic party.

  19. Aligning with candidates may prevent us from reaching Republican/conservative voters on key issues.

  20. Our mission/pledge is to act in solidarity with persons/populations most likely to be harmed by policies which our preferred candidate may support or not adequately fight against.

  21. Involvement in electoral politics may raise legal/organizational/financial issues.

  22. We have other ways to support candidates, other than direct involvement with their campaign.

  23. Individual coalition members have the ability to support campaigns themselves, as individuals.

  24. There are organizations (such as Uplift) whom CNY Solidarity members can and do already work with to engage directly in electoral politics.

  25. We may alienate some who might otherwise support the Coalition.

  26. Coalition members might run against each other for the same office.

  27. We could lose our non-partisan identity.

  28. In the name of preserving the coalition–a big tent under which people of various political views gather–we’ve dispensed with difficult conversations out of concern that we might seem to be drawing hard lines and digging out bunkers. Endorsing candidates would change this approach, effectively drawing a hard line. To begin to endorse candidates without also making space for difficult conversations is to risk an already fragile tent.

Additional Comments

  • I. Am pretty much in agreement with most of the pros and cons but the pros vastly outweigh the cons. Let’s do it.
  • I strongly support the statement above: “CNY Solidarity Coalition should remain focused on principles/issues rather than individuals.”
  • I fear that that a candidate I consider “fringe” would be the one that was chosen to support.
  • 1 depends on next one 2 We could endorse > 1 candidate 5 People will do what they do, so it won’t deflect work. 7 can do both at once 9 we can challenge people we endorse 12 could align with several 15 if that happens, we challenge them 17 then we can endorse then too 19 maybe 20 we wouldn’t endorse someone that that 26 could endorse both 27 Yes, we could be viewed as a democratic front
  • All the above are valued concerns. However understanding the issues better could better inform the entire political process. But so we need to understand the issues holistically.
  • Not related to electoral politics and candidate support, I personally am interested in how I can best bring the topic of student loan justice and student loan reform in America to the Coalition. Among other things. I am interested in organizing a local protest and am also interested in potentially bringing Alan Collinge, author of “The Student Loan Scam” to Syracuse to present and speak to the Coalition. I am also interested in training as an activist.
  • Just a question: What do we gain by endorsing candidates, and what does it cost us?
  • Might the endorsement of candidates by CNYSC reflect negatively on them for some non-CNYSC people who don’t know who we are & that we’re not extremists.
  • We should be an issues group, not a candidates group.
  • We were part of Peace Action’s “Peace Voter” campaign when Schumer & D’Amato were running. We did a voter guide that detailed the issues & each candidate’s positions, and distributed it door to door in the Sherman Park area, a heavily Republican district. That district voted heavily in favor of Schumer.
  • Definitely do not think the Coalition should endorse any candidate.
  • Re electoral politics as internally divisive: Not clear why; Re coalition resources should be used to support those in need: Not one or the other & one could support the other; Re focus on principles/issues rather than individuals: Not one or the other; Re we should drive the agenda for politicians: But we can only drive it if we support or don’t support; Re losing our nonpartisan identity: We are already partisan & perceived that way
  • I worry that our endorsement may actually harm the candidate.
  • As an Independent, I’m not so sure I would agree with a specific candidate. I am more comfortable with supporting a particular action of a politician vs. supporting the candidate as a whole. I feel that official candidate endorsements will be divisive within the coalition and may lead to us compromising some of our values in order to achieve political power at any cost.
  • 27 – Hmm not sure I believe we are viewed largely Dem. 28 – I think we should have the conversations; EDUCATE I’m afraid we may throw away leverage for pushing politicians if we endorse too early Perhaps we need to come up with a list of initiates they need to show they support/endorse or perhaps more concrete steps they need to do in order to get our support, something creative
  • Candidates using appearances at our events for their campaigns without being officially endorsed by the group.
  • What does it mean to support?
  • 4 – Not sure who we claim to speak for Possible to avoid org split by endorsing more than one candidate in each election
  • These are all concerns, but at some point you have to take a stand and stop worrying about who might be offended. You can never please everyone. Concentrate your efforts, lets get Katko OUT!
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