This article announces organizational endorsements for candidates running for Grand Rapids Mayor and the first and second ward City Commission seats. Only 2 of the 4 second ward candidates are cited, none of the first ward candidates, and only 1 of the 3 Mayoral candidates. Two of the candidates mentioned in the story, Tormala and Koorndyke, have held elected office, but the story does not provide any information on their voting record. What readers do get in the story are claims from the Press reporter that “endorsements by special interest groups can give them a leg up in the nonpartisan race,” but the story provides no evidence that endorsements lead to votes.
The only other sources cited are a spokesperson from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and the United Auto Workers, but do the comments provided by either spokesperson assist readers/voters in making an informed decision about these upcoming elections? There is also no information as to whether the endorsing groups have donated money to any of the candidates or whether or not they will do any promotion of those they have endorsed before the August Primary.
City Commission candidate David LaGrand was jubilant Friday after hearing he is being endorsed by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s Friends of West Michigan Business. “I have actually gotten a clean sweep or as close as you can get,” said LaGrand, who also received the endorsement of the city’s firefighters union later in the day.
As candidates prepare for weeks of door-to-door campaigning before the Aug. 7 primary election, endorsements by special interest groups can give them a leg up in the nonpartisan race.
LaGrand appeared to have the most to brag about Friday. The business lobby threw its sole support behind LaGrand despite the fact he ran as a Democrat for the state Senate last year. The chamber was expected to endorse Dan Koorndyk, a Republican and insurance agency owner who served on the Kent County Board of Commissioners for three terms.
LaGrand’s ideas and experience as the owner of a neighborhood bakery and downtown coffee shop impressed the chamber’s endorsement panel, President Jeanne Englehart said.
“All of the candidates had excellent ideas. David LaGrand meets the most important test. He truly understands business,” she said. “Dan Koorndyk is a fine candidate and is very well liked and has done a good job, but David LaGrand came through the interview in a way that was exemplary.”
While LaGrand declared the endorsements to be “incredibly important,” Koorndyk downplayed the news. “He did a good sales job, which is fine,” Koorndyk said. “Endorsements are good to have, but I don’t think people will vote for you over someone else because of a special group or person.”
In the mayoral race, the chamber endorsed incumbent Mayor George Heartwell over challengers Rick Tormala and James Rinck.
Tormala, who received a split endorsement from the chamber when he ran for the 2nd Ward City Commission seat four years ago, said he was puzzled by the endorsement.
“With me, they’ve got someone who will agree with them when they’re right. With George, they’ve got a rubber stamp,” he said.
The chamber split its 1st Ward endorsement between business owner Walt Gutowski Jr. and Tom Postmus, a former Kent County Commissioner. Candidate Ed Kettle has said he will not seek endorsements.
LaGrand said his “sweep” was completed by an endorsement from Right to Life of Michigan. The anti-abortion group’s choices often carry weight despite the fact City Hall politicians rarely deal with abortion issues.
The United Auto Workers Union’s local political action committee endorsed LaGrand and Gutowski in the City Commission races but decided to forego endorsements in the mayoral race, said Susan Levy, the group’s coordinator.
“There are a number of people in that race that we’ve endorsed in prior elections. At this point, we’re just going to step back and let the voters decide,” she said.