Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Impact of Endorsements Open for Debate; They Can Make a Difference in a Tight Race, Political Science Professor Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Impact of Endorsements Open for Debate; They Can Make a Difference in a Tight Race, Political Science Professor Says

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

ATLANTA -- As in every election year, endorsements by prominent political figures and advocacy groups are flowing fast as the state's July primaries approach.

But candidates and voters will have to wait a while to see whether the support makes a difference.

There have been some marquee names. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threw his backing behind former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, who's running for lieutenant governor. Former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat and onetime governor who endorsed President Bush in 2004, came to Atlanta on Friday to announce his support for Sen. Bill Stephens, R-Canton, who's running for his party's nomination for secretary of state.

And recently, the anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life issued a list of candidates of those who agreed on its major issue. On the other side of the political spectrum, gay rights group Georgia Equality is nearing a decision on endorsements.

But how much of an impact any of those endorsements make is open for debate.

Katie Grove, Stephens' campaign manager, said endorsements from Miller, congressmen, dozens of state legislators and Georgia Right to Life, among others, supports Stephens' claim to be the true conservative in the race.

That could be important, she said, in a down-ballot race that doesn't get as much attention as the run for governor. Higher races also tend to attract politicians with a larger profile, though Stephens was the Republican leader in the Senate from 2004-05.

"You're starting out with candidates who might not be that well known across the state," Grove said.

Every candidate has a list of prominent supporters. More than 150 elected officials and party leaders have endorsed Karen Handel, Stephens' main opponent for the GOP nomination, said her campaign manager, Marty Ryall.

And he pointed out that endorsements aren't everything if there's no follow-up.

"Endorsements help you gain some credibility in a community when you're not as well known," Ryall said. …

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