By Nov. 3, most New Jersey voters will have voted by mail to elect a senator and 12 members to the United States Congress. They
will join all Americans in electing a president and vice president. Voters in Legislative District 25 will elect a state senator and an assembly member. The federal and state governments have a
profound impact on what happens in New Jersey’s schools. That’s why the NJEA Political Action Committee (PAC) carefully screens candidates for 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 pass favorable legislation and sto
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 chairperson.
Screening committees also include NJEA Government Relations Committee and
Congressional Contact Committee members from counties involved, the county president, and NJEA Executive Committee members from the counties involved.
Screening committees invite candidates for an interview, typically early in the summer. 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 questions from the screening committee. Questions are based upon the issues in public education and concerns within the county membership.
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.
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 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
For congressional endorsements, NJEA PAC’s recommendations are sent to the National Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education for final endorsement.
The Endorsement Process During COVID-19
Despite the challenges imposed by the global pandemic, NJEA PAC maintained its standards and practices for endorsements. Candidates responded to the questionnaire about their public education and labor priorities, and they were invited to attend a virtual screening with members of their local