On Nov. 8, New Jersey voters will head to the polls to elect 12 members to the United States Congress. Congress has a profound impact on what happens in New Jersey’s schools. That’s why the NJEA Political Action Committee (PAC) carefully screens all candidates for statewide public office.
NJEA PAC prides itself on having a sound, fair, and democratic process leading up to the endorsement of a candidate. The purpose of the process is to identify the candidate most supportive of NJEA’s legislative program. Endorsing and electing candidates who support NJEA’s goals significantly increases the association’s ability to effectively advocate for favorable legislation and stop negative legislation.
The screening process
Establishing a screening committee
PAC screening committees are established for each congressional district (CD). Each committee includes members of the NJEA PAC Operating Committee who represent their respective counties and the New Jersey Retirees’ Education Association (NJREA) legislative county chairpersons.
Screening committees also include NJEA Government Relations Committee and Congressional Contact Committee members from the counties involved, the county presidents, and NJEA Executive Committee members from those counties.
Evaluating the candidates
For November elections, screening committees generally invite candidates for an interview in late June. Prior to meeting the candidate, the committee reviews completed NJEA questionnaires submitted by the candidate and if he or she is an incumbent, the candidate’s voting record.
Each candidate screening session lasts about an hour, allowing time for candidates to make a presentation and answer screening committee questions.
When evaluating the candidates, screening committees consider candidates’ positions on issues and electability. For incumbents, committees also consider legislative voting records, committee assignments, leadership positions, sponsorship of pro-public education legislation, and accessibility to NJEA members.
Endorsing the candidates
The screening committee does not make the final endorsement. Rather, it recommends a position to be considered by the NJEA PAC Operating Committee.
To make its recommendation, the county screening committee discusses the merits of each candidate. The committee may recommend the endorsement of one candidate in a race, recommend no endorsement, or recommend a “your choice” option, which indicates that both candidates are in agreement with NJEA’s goals and positions.
The 125-member NJEA PAC Operating Committee consists of NJEA’s officers, the NJEA Executive Committee, the county association presidents, the NJEA Government Relations Committee, the Congressional Contact Committee, the president of New Jersey Student Education Association, the NJREA legislative chairperson, and two NJREA regional legislative chairs.
For the November general election, the committee usually meets in August. It reviews the recommendations of the screening committees and brings votes to determine who will become NJEA PAC-endorsed candidates.
For presidential and congressional endorsements, NJEA PAC’s recommendations are sent to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education for final endorsement.
Dates to Remember
Oct. 18 – Last day to register to vote
Nov. 1 – Vote by mail applications due
Nov. 7 – Last day to apply in person for a Vote by Mail ballot (up to 3 p.m.)
Nov. 8 – Election Day