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While this article is from 3 years ago…it explains the multi-step process on how a candidate gets endorsed.  All candidates can participate and the process IS nonpartisan. 


From NJEA.org:

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 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.

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. Questions are based upon the issues described above 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.

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.

On Nov. 6, Americans will go to the polls to elect their representatives to the United States Congress. New Jersey voters will elect 12 members to the House of Representatives and one U.S. senator. NJEA and NEA have endorsed candidates in 10 congressional districts.

New Jersey voters in four legislative districts (LD) will vote to fill open seats in the state Legislature.

Each candidate was screened in his or her congressional district (CD) or legislative district (LD) by a committee of NJEA members who analyzed their responses in an interview and on a written questionnaire. For incumbents, their voting records were reviewed by the committee.

The committee’s recommendations were submitted to the NJEA PAC Operating Committee for consideration. NJEA PAC’s recommendations for the U.S. House of Representative and U.S. Senate were then sent to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education for final endorsement.