Ronald Reagan, who knew a thing or two about politics, once said, “You and I are told we must choose between left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right.”
As the New Year gets underway and the 2018 campaign season kicks offs in earnest, PORAC must make the hard decisions regarding who we endorse for elected office. The stakes are high, as every constitutional office, the entirety of the Assembly and half the Senate will go before the voters.
As directors, it is our obligation to look out for the safety and economic interests of our members, the protection of those on the front lines during an increasingly combustible time, the social health of our communities, and PORAC’s steadfast message to protect those who protect and serve others. Achieving the goals of PORAC’s mission statement cannot be accomplished only with a legislative agenda and a perspective that is unique to those of us who do our job. We must operate in the political arena. As endorsements are made public, the same questions get asked: Why do we endorse or get involved? Why did you endorse so-and-so — have you lost your ever-loving mind?
PORAC has a protocol for handling our endorsements. Most candidates who come to us for an endorsement have established ties with our organization at the local level and with the chapters and associations. Directors make their choices based in part on the questionnaires completed by the candidates that delineate their responses to our issues of importance, combined with in-person board interviews and their history of public service — often a mixed bag that makes us balance their record on bread-and-butter issues with input from experienced consultants and attending meetings or having discussions with the respective candidates.
The endorsement decisions are never made lightly and they are sometimes not ideal. California is a state of extraordinary complexity, and while we have never taken the lesser of two evils, we have decided to find common ground with candidates who will be officeholders. I can provide one irrevocable truth, however: that candidates who take a professed anti-union view and refuse to go through the process, or don’t provide the necessary information or attend interviews, will not be considered.
PORAC is viewed in most circles as the most important law enforcement association in California and among the few with national impact. Our breadth of policy discussion goes to the core of how our members do their job on a daily basis, and how they retire at the end of their career. We deal with sectors of leadership that are resistant to law enforcement issues but are willing to engage in the discussion with PORAC. If we don’t engage the politicians, we don’t get a seat at the table. The Board understands pragmatism and has no illusions about the system, yet we take into consideration the illusions that many of our members have about the way we should deal with our elected officials.
Endorsements can antagonize our members. Sometimes we choose candidates we wouldn’t want to invite to our family barbecues, but we are able to have a professional-level discussion. Some candidates are good on law-and-order issues and others are good on pay and benefits. We must prioritize when no one candidate in the race is perfect. Once we endorse, we understand that it allows the fiercest partisans, most of whom have not done the research and careful consideration, to summarily dismiss us as Republican shills or Democratic lapdogs. Interestingly, and most of you will laugh at the absurdity, we have been called both in the same race.
We will continue to endorse because public policy has a major impact on our livelihoods and working conditions. The people we elect make decisions on budgets and determine if our pensions will be secure and guaranteed.
As the preeminent law enforcement organization in California, we will do our due diligence to honestly inform our members of the facts and encourage them to push a pro-public-safety agenda. History has proven that our efforts are damn effective, not perfect, but careful, considered and done with the interest of our members in mind. The most direct way we do that is in choosing who will lead our governments.
Our success in the political arena is dependent on our members’ commitment to being active and participating in the election process. We always welcome input, especially if it is thoughtful and reflects the professionalism of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to increased civility and the safety of the millions of Californians we protect.