Endorsements Rarely Make A Difference, But There's One That Could in Hamilton

Yesterday was a day of endorsements in the Hamilton mayoral race with Brad Clark and Brian McHattie rolling out endorsement announcements.

Clark receiving the endorsement of Dundas Councillor Russ Powers, and McHattie that of Hamilton rock legend Tom Wilson. (Fred Eisenberger previously unveiled the endorsement of former Mayor Larry DiIanni in early summer)

Do endorsements make a difference?

They can, but I do see any of these endorsements on their own making a significant difference to how people vote.

Each one of the endorsements will contribute to the campaigns, but will not directly sway many votes.

Powers will bring Clark a boost in Dundas, an area with strong connects to Westdale. Wilson brings to McHattie fundraising support and voter outreach. DiIanni brings Eisenberger a significant fundraising track record.

For all these candidates, endorsements bring media attention, which is critical to convincing donors to open their wallets.

Endorsement Name, Surprise, and Timing

A really big endorsement from an individual who draws significant media and public attention at a strategic time in a race can make a huge impact, especially in a very tight race. It’s even better when the endorser is an irresistible draw for media.

Endorsements are about momentum, and earned media in invaluable especially in the final days of a tight campaign.

Could there be such an endorsement in Hamilton this year?

Last week, I learned Canada’s “rock star” Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi is tentatively scheduled to be in Hamilton on October 23, only four days before election day.

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When Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Keanin Loomis made the announcement on Friday, I was immediately struck by the timing – what would bring Nenshi to Hamilton at such a critical time in the political cycle?

My thoughts turned to Nenshi’s possible impact on the Ward One race, where his friend Jason Allen is running.

Nenshi and Jason Allen

Jason Allen and Naheed Nenshi at the Hill Street Park in June 2014 (Jason Allen Campaign Photo)Jason Allen and Naheed Nenshi at the Hill Street Park in June 2014

Naheed Nenshi and Ward One Council Candidate Jason Allen are good friends, attending the University of Calgary at the same time, building on a friendship that began during Junior High School.

It was Nenshi’s idea, Allen recalls, for Allen to run for President of University of Calgary’s Student Union during the winter of 1994.

Nenshi was the incumbent student union president and supported Allen. Allen won.

Allen, his wife Noelle, Nenshi, and Nenshi’s Chief of Staff Chima Nkemdirim all remain close friends.

Nenshi even made an appearance – without media present – in May with Allen during a brief stop while visiting St. Catharines for a national academic conference.

Will Nenshi Make A Joint Appearance on October 23?

Nenshi is a much in demand speaker, and keeps a busy schedule as Mayor of one of Canada’s largest urban economies.

It’s possible that he just happens to be visiting Hamilton to speak to the Chamber of Commerce four days before the election, just because his schedule is free that day.

It’s entirely possible he won’t mention his long-time friend when he speaks. (And your reporter does plan to – at the least – record the speech)

He could even avoid talking about the Hamilton municipal race during his talk. Nonetheless, the election will be the only thing on the minds of reporters during the media questions that will follow.

Impact in the Final 96 Hours

Undecided voters make their decision on whom to vote for during the final days of the election period. Candidates pull out all the stops during the final weekend, trying to reach as many voters as possible.

In Ward 1, there is no clear frontrunner, and most people I’ve spoke to in Ward 1 are struggling to decide who they’ll favour.

Nenshi’s star power can propel Allen to the front of headlines and give him a critical boost in attention, something his campaign could capitalize upon with undecided voters.

Over on the Mayoral front, expect to see both Eisenberger and McHattie crowding for a photo with Nenshi.

It should be interesting to see what happens on October 23rd.

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