Election 2014: Georgia 1+2+3 = Modern Voting Rights Movement #GA123

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GA123 TurnoutBy Kirk Clay

Voting Rights Groups Using Social Media To Amplify Their Political Voice #GA123

Last week I participated in #GA123 — one of the most cutting edge civic engagement events this election cycle. This “cross-platform” social media conference attracted over a hundred political leaders from the southeast region including representatives from labor, progressives, civil rights, women, youth and people of color. Featured speakers included AFL-CIO Executive Council member and United Steel Workers’ International Vice President Fred Redmond, House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly Stacey Abrams, League of United Latin American Citizens’ Director of Civic Engagement Sindy Benavides, Chairman of the African American Ministers in Action Reverend Timothy McDonald, III and the Southern Region Director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) Kermit Moore.

This conference was the launch of a plan to unite and mobilize large numbers of white progressive and “voters of color” (VOC) through the use of “predictive modeling” to strategically micro-target supporters. What’s even more impressive? You could see #GA123’s impact with 200 tweets being reproduced 66 times — a high ratio and strong online activity for a conference of this size. What’s more, many in the audience were media personalities and local “influencers” with large followings so #GA123 could’ve potentially touched over 120,000 people.

The concept is simple, mobilize progressive voters to take three important steps: 1) Vote in the primary election, 2) early vote in the general election, and 3) get a friend to vote on November 4th.

Impact on Election 2014: “Conservative Tea Party candidates — like those running for Georgia U.S. Senate — rely on low voter turnout to win in off year elections. The majority of their vote comes from precincts where they have outsized support from older white male voters.” Therefore, the only hope Democrats have of holding on the U.S. Senate is with the help of a “Voters of Color Fire Wall.” This wall can be built in “States of Influence” – places like Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election. The question is how to ignite the “Rising Electorate” in a midterm.

Background: “#GA123” social media outreach has the potential to ignite Georgia’s progressive electorate in 2014. While fostering on-line collaborations in communities that share the same interests, the program could generate enthusiasm in communities that are at risk of high “drop-off” rates. The “sweet spot” is to engage local progressive organizations that are active offline and encourage them to be more active online and “visa versa.” Then involve these supporters in a push to get their on-line networks to vote and to be more active in long-term civic engagement work like holding elected leaders accountable.

Case: Georgia is undergoing a remarkable demographic transformation and will soon be an electoral swing state. For these reasons Georgia is at the center of the political universe as it relates to the “Rising Electorate.” As witnessed at the state level in 2012, this rising electorate helped give President Obama 46% (1,773,827) of the Georgia’s vote – only a point off his 2008 performance. More importantly, the VOC vote share grew from 32% in 2008 to 37% for the first time ever. As a result, we now know that a Democrat can successfully win a bid for U.S. Senator with support from 35% of the progressive white vote.

The Political Landscape: The 2010 midterm elections dealt the Democrats a sobering blow. Amidst a hyper partisan ad war, Democrats elected to keep the most valuable weapon in politics — the President of The United States — off the campaign trail. Consequently, they were not able to turnout enough voters to keep the political balance from tilting back to the right.

Here are the results:

  1.      An estimated 2,576,037 million voters turned out in November of 2010 –a decrease of 1,316,845 votes from the 2008 election and 1,276,478 less than 2012.
  2.      Republican Governor Nathan Deal won with 53% of the vote.
  3.      The 8th Congressional district changed from Democrat to Republican by just 10,520 votes.
  4.      The GOP gained 2 seats in the state Senate and 9 seats in the state house.

What was the long-term damage? Through redistricting, Republicans now control both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, 9 of the fourteen congressional seats, the governorship, and both state legislative bodies. This translates into Georgia residents living under political leadership that is hostile to public workers, unresponsive to calls for economic fairness, and failing to fulfill its responsibility of providing affordable health care to all.

Can Democrats repair the damage and turn it around in 2014 and beyond? Yes. As the future of Georgia politics begin to take shape, there are a few data points to consider:

• Voters of color make up 33% of Georgia’s registered voters (30% Black, 2% Latino, and 1% Asian).
• Georgia has over 850,000 Latino residents and 26% are eligible to vote.
• Nationally close to 52, 000 Latinos turn 18 every month and 9 out of 10 of those are eligible to vote.
• Latinos will account for 52% of Georgia’s new eligible voters in 2016.

So what’s happening on the ground? We see progressive movement in areas like Georgia’s House District 111 (35% Black and 6% Latino with a significant youth population). This seat is in a county that gave President Obama 48% of the vote – just 2,925 votes from victory. Henry County has grown by 2.5% to 209,053 and cities like Stockbridge grew 2.5% to 26,281. Note that areas like this will have more than 14,000 “key” Voters of Color and could be decisive in 2014. Devoting resources to high performing VOC precincts here will give a tremendous return on investment.

Wrap-up: Georgia is ready for a concentrated and multilevel campaign to train, equip, and energize their progressive community. The truth is that #GA123 has the capacity to capitalize on the voting trends listed above and boost voter turnout in “at risk” communities. The use of quantified impression-based targeting, demographic data and technological enhancements will be a value added to traditional civic engagement tools. That will make it possible to close the gaps between the populations that are eligible and likely voters. If we can expand the electorate and provide enough momentum to energize voters for 2014 and the 2016 cycles, it won’t be long until the Democrats recapture, maintain, and extend progressive legislative margins in this new battle ground state.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

Election 2014: Governor Christie, McDonnell, and Scott – What Do They All Have In Common?

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By Kirk Clay

3 Things You May Not Know About Voters of Color in New Jersey, Virginia, and Florida

What does Governors Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Rick Scott all have in common? They’re all from states rocked by scandal? No. They’re all from states that President Obama won twice? Nope. Medicaid expansion is a hot button issue in all of their states? Maybe, but that’s not all. If you name the variables VA-2that will have the biggest impact this election year, the voter turnout rate for Voters of Color (VOC) could be at the top of the list but the amount of resources spent campaigning is close behind.

Paradigm: For the past few election cycles, conservative institutions and their Tea Party counterparts have leaned on their standard campaign issue – repeal Obamacare. The thinking is that if Republican politicians and conservative institutions pump millions of dollars in deterring Americans from participation in the ACA – including Medicaid expansion — then they will win. However, recent bellwether elections have undermined this long-held cliché and there is evidence based data that points to a backlash brewing.

Background: A significant number of voters believe “sabotage” is the driving motive for the GOP’s obstruction and it has become an exemplifying issue for the modern Republican party. As a result, the Republican brand is damaged in a number of states refusing buckets of money in opposition to Obamacare. Even in a blue state like New Jersey, there are Tea Party calls for Christie to “rethink his position.” To be clear, this well financed push against Medicaid expansion gives insight to a broader set of electoral trends and exposes the symptoms of “Shutdown Syndrome.”

Case: In states like Virginia, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers Medicaid coverage to people who earn up to 138% of the poverty line. This includes childless adults and large portions of the Latinos, African American, and Asian American communities. In short, the federal Treasury will pick up the state’s tab for a number of new clients in the program’s “beginning” years. After that, they will cover a healthy portion of the program for a significant number of years later.

 

The Fundamentals: In Virginia, Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli ran for election on a platform that included an “anti- Medicaid expansion” policy. His campaign was bolstered by organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the US Chamber of Commerce — that spent millions of dollars in political advertising to discourage ACA sign-ups. More notably, this advertising was on air in hotly contested media markets like “toss-up” Congressional District VA-2 and State Senate District Six.

The results? Cuccinelli lost to a national DNC leader who never held an elected office, the Republicans lost Senate District 6 — flipping Virginia’s State Senate from Red to Blue, and Republican Congressman Scott Rigell is now in the toughest race of his career.

As the fundamentals of the mid-term elections begin to take shape, there are a few data points to consider:

  1. There was an unexpectedly strong VOC turnout for the 2013 election cycle — with people of color making up 28% of Virginia’s electorate.
  2. Virginia Gubernatorial candidate Cuccinelli, State Senate candidate Colman, and GOP Presidential candidate Romney all carried Virginia’s independent voters by double-digits and still lost.
  3. President Obama’s approval is above the critical 46% level in states like Virginia, Florida, and New Jersey — demonstrating his political resilience.
  4. The Democrats have regained their lead on the Congressional generic ballot (40%-38%) – more evidence that voters prefer politicians that show the ability to take a problem head-on and fix it.

So what’s happening on the ground? Districts of influence – areas with enough diversity to impact the election – are becoming more than just a firewall against anti-Obamacare advertising. Note that State Senate Candidate Lynwood Lewis was out spent by Republican Wayne Colman $395,632 to 598,982 and the airwaves were saturated with Anti-Obamacare advertising. However, Lewis invested in VOC and was able to offset a decline in support from independent voters. This was a vital component of his strategy and could prove decisive in 2014.

Example: Virginia’s CD-2 is 7% Latino, 21% African American, and 5% Asian with over 52,000 youth between the ages of 18-25 – President Obama won this district with 50% of the vote in 2012. Similar to Virginia’s Senate District 6, this seat is based in Norfolk which is 53% People of Color. Remember, Governor Bob McDonnell won this area with 54% of the vote in 2009 then President Obama won with 72% of the vote in 2012. The centerpiece of Lewis’ winning strategy was to invest in high performing VOC precincts like 213 (Taylor Elementary School) where President Obama received 65% of the precinct’s vote in 2012.

As the campaign season begins, it’s important to keep in mind that most voters are not all that interested in why things haven’t worked. Why should they? Every morning they get up looking for solutions to kitchen table problems — not excuses. Their goal is to get results for their family which means they will support policies and candidates that help to make ends meet. Imagine how many more insured Americans we would have if Congress did the same? The truth is that voters have little patience for “bumper sticker” solutions and this November they’ll be looking for someone to make things better.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

HOPE DESERVES A SIMPLE VOTE, NOT ANOTHER SHOWDOWN

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HOPE DESERVES A SIMPLE VOTE, NOT ANOTHER SHOWDOWN.

2013 in Review: Kirk Clay

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2013 annual report for Kirk’s blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Election 2014: Democrats Can Win Back the House, By Fixing It

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English: Number of self-identified Democrats v...

By Kirk Clay

The best part of my Thanksgiving weekend was sitting around the table with family debating the upcoming NCAA national championship game. I have to admit, I love talking with my brother — a lifelong Buckeye – who is always optimistic that Ohio State can go all the way. Then there’s my father – a lifelong Alabama fan – that regularly reminds everyone that “It’s unlikely for the Bucks to beat ‘Bama if they play each other.” However, in sports (as well as politics) you can never be certain of the results until after the game. That’s why they play the game.

Yes, America loves a comeback story. Watching the excitement generated by Auburn’s victory over top ranked Alabama during the last seconds of the game reminded me of Election 2014 and the possible electoral impact the “Rising Electorate” may have. I began to ask myself, “will this mid-term election be decided by last minute local issues or long-term national concerns?” Will this be a referendum on the “Do-nothing” Congress, Government Shutdown or Obamacare?

What’s remarkable is how — for reasons hard to explain – 2012 issues and dynamics are being dragged into 2014. Remember 2012 was a hyper polarized political environment where attitudes solidified quickly and “Obamacare” didn’t peel off many voters. The Democrats netted 8 seats in the House and gained a foothold in the Senate by winning 80% of the competitive Senate races. Also, they gained 170 more state legislative seats nationwide and took over 8 state legislative chambers including complete control of Colorado. In other words, everyone that hates “Obamacare” has probably already voted against it and everyone that voted for President Obama will probably still vote Democrat.

So what’s different? Consumer confidence is at a 6 year high and the GOP driven Government shutdown seems to be sticking. The Democrats didn’t have these weapons in 2012 and now the stage is set for an upsurge for President Obama’s coalition that includes progressive whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, women, youth and unions.

As the fundamentals of the mid-term elections begin to take shape, there are a few data points to consider. As listed in Gallup’s recent national survey:

  1. Congress has a 9% approval rating (the lowest ever)
  2. 59% say their disapproval is driven by perceived “Gridlock /
    Ineffectiveness”
  3. Party identification for Republicans is 6 points lower than last
    November
  4. The electorate still blames the GOP for the disadvantageous
    “Government Shutdown” and Congressional unfavorable ratings are a record high
  5. Businesses added 215,000 jobs in November (capping a better-than-expected year)

Furthermore, there were fewer than 60 laws enacted this year, so this is officially the least productive Congress ever. In other words, the Republicans will not have a record of “fixing things” to run on while the Democrats will tout saving the economy from default and fighting to keep the Government open. Will these numbers drive voters to throw the bums out and flip the House? No one knows for sure but these issues and others could be the catalyst.
For Example, take Colorado’s CD-6 where the district is 20% Latino, 9% African American, 5% Asian and there are over 60,000 youth between the ages of 18-25. The President won this district with 54% (182,464) of the vote and GOP Congressman Mike Coffman scraped by with only 48% (150,587) of the vote. That’s a difference of 31,877 more votes for Democrats.

Remember Coffman won by 7,001 votes in 2012, a Presidential election year.  This is about 2% of List of House Racesturnout but we expect him to garner 3-5% more votes in a mid-term election. However, there were over 12,000 ballots cast that did not choose a Congressional candidate between Adams and Arapahoe counties (both counties are favorable towards Democrats). Lastly, Colorado recently passed a law requiring all registered voters to receive a ballot in the mail and allowing Election Day registration. These factors will increase midterm turnout for progressives.

Will these dynamics play out in the 17 Congressional districts needed to flip the House? Yes. The truth is that voters in places like Toledo care more about the price of milk, the economy and the Buckeyes –not necessarily in that order – than the healthcare website. It’s our experience that people won’t vote for politicians that ignore underlying issues or problems but they’ll vote for someone to fix them. Simply put, “nothing from nothing leaves anything and doing nothing isn’t working.” If a candidate can show the ability to take a problem head-on and fix it, they will garner a lot of respect and votes.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

CHRISTIECRATS, POLITICS, AND CONFLICTING LOYALTIES

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By Kirk Clay

This Campaign Was  Not About “Blue State” Voter Mobilization

Pundits across the country are in full speculation mode that Chris Christie’s re-election may illuminate

2.9.11ChrisChristieTownHallByLuigiNovi37

the path for Republicans to recapture the White House in 2016.  Having been deeply involved in New Jersey elections for the past year, we talked to our colleagues on the ground to get their take on just what the Christie win really means.

Was this the début of the GOP’s “minority outreach” program? Or was this just the latest battle in the civil war between Tea Party activists and establishment Republicans? After evaluating the results of last Tuesday’s election, it’s possible that the answer is yes.

With less than 38% turnout—a record low for New Jersey Governor races – this campaign was obviously not about “Blue State” voter mobilization. Therefore, the outcome doesn’t have a single driving factor but rather multiple interwoven themes that articulate a much more fluid set of dynamics.

To put this race in context, let’s start at the finish line. Given the enormous vote gap for Chris Christie’s win (60% – 38%), this race was clearly driven by his Super Storm Sandy response. Christie used public funds to remind voters of this “911” moment the entire campaign, giving him impenetrable political armor that prevented Senator Barbara Buono from exposing his biggest weaknesses – policies not personality.

For example, while exit polls report that “the economy” mattered most to voters and nearly half (49%) considered this in deciding how they would cast their ballot, 59% said the condition of New Jersey’s economy is “not so good / poor.” In fact, New Jersey’s unemployment rate of 8.5% has outpaced the national average since Christie took office.

It’s important to note that Christie’s personal popularity is sharply at odds with where the majority of New Jersey voters are on the issues.  Note that there is a clear contrast between Christie’s conservative posture and the values of his state. For instance, his “Blue State” constituents favored a court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey (60% to 38%) yet he forcefully spoke out against it. This was never a problem for him because there was no progressive entity to hold him accountable including Senator Buono who was out raised $2.7 million to Christie’s $13.2 million. Likewise he was not held accountable for 1) his veto of legislation to raise the minimum-wage, 2) teacher pension cuts, 3) a woman’s right to choose, 4) gun control, and 5) a weak climate control stance.

Giving him a pass on these issues became self-inflected wounds for Democrats and progressives:

  1. 57% of the New Jersey’s women voted for Chris Christie
  2. 51% of Latinos and 21% of African Americans voted for the Governor, an increase over previous elections
  3. 49% of those who support same sex marriage voted for Chris Christie
  4. 46% of union households supported Chris Christie
  5. 32% of self-identified Democrats voted for Chris Christie
  6. 31% of self-described liberals supported Chris Christie

There is strong evidence that there would’ve been a different outcome if Democrats truly contested this race. Specifically, a Democrat like Cory Booker—with resources for a GOTV operation and high name recognition—would have likely defeated Christie. His candidacy would have impacted down ballot in majority People of Color (POC) cities like Atlantic – that just elected a Republican mayor.

 

Moving forward, how might this help Christie get through the primaries in 2016? The truth is that Citizen’s United has significantly changed the primary process. Remember in 2012, most political “experts” were scratching their heads trying to figure out when Rick Santorum would suspend his campaign. The answer came after his financial backer stopped paying for airplane tickets to primary states. It’s important to note that he agreed to step down only after delegate rich states were completely out of reach.

With states like California, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania traditionally holding late primary dates—and already leaning towards a Christie candidacy—something tells me that Christie will have plenty of money for airplane tickets to compete through May.

 

What should progressives start thinking about? A way to win more Voters of Color (VOC) through persuasion versus the splintering that occurred in New Jersey. This could be key — given the fact that “Operation ChristiCrats” may garner a larger pool of the Democrats’ traditional base. We may have to consolidate and expand the base including youth, white women, people of color and progressives. Looking at this from a demographic perspective — using New Jersey’s recent Governor’s race where the electorate was 15% African American, 9% Latino, and 3% Asian — voters of Color can have tremendous impact as long as they receive the “right message from a trusted messenger.”

Of course, Christie’s performance doesn’t guarantee that he will easily walk into the White House. Nevertheless, his electoral success in a “Blue State” details a path for Republicans that may become a game changer. This also indicates that, contrary to popular thought, they are working to fix their cultural blind spots. Note that it’s no accident New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez joined Christie for a pre-Election Day tour or Senator Buono was hit with a Shaq attack so close to election day.

The truth is that no one knows what will happen in the next two years, but it’s well documented that candidates like Governor Christie have the ability to create openings for their team by breaking through voting blocks and separating voters from their interests. If we neglect to invest in institutions that hold those blocks together we could be witnessing the next big electoral change.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

Boston Will Yet Have a Mayor of Color

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By Kirk Clay

 

Huge Step Toward Empowering Boston’s Rising Electorate

 

Boston is in the middle of its first open mayoral election in twenty years, and many thought that this was the opportunity to elect the city’s first mayor of color.  With the results of last week’s election, however, the top two

English: First Congregational Church of Hyde P...

candidates advancing to the runoff are both white.  Although this outcome was disappointing to those hoping to diversify City Hall, there is still reason to believe that a future candidate of color can prevail.

 

At its most simple, the candidates of color split their pool of voters, denying any of them a chance to make it into the runoff.  The top two candidates, Martin Walsh and John Connolly, received 20,838 and 19,420 votes respectfully.  Cumulatively, the top three candidates of color – Charlotte Golar Richie, Felix Arroyo, and John Barros – received 34,562 votes.

 

A closer look at past election results reveals a winning path for future mayoral candidates of color and women. The 2013 first-place finish of Ayanna Pressley, an African American woman and the first woman of color ever elected to the Boston City Council, demonstrated how unifying the voters of color is key to maximizing the impact of voters of color (VOC).

 

Let me explain by comparing the results of Boston’s preliminary 2013 mayoral race with Pressley’s at-large 2013 city council race. Pressley ran among a pool of 20 candidates for one of four run-off spots.  She won with 17% (42,915) of the votes cast for the City Council candidates. Last week’s lead Mayoral candidates Martin Walsh and John Connolly received 18% (20,854) of the vote and 17% (19,435) of the vote respectfully. Combined that’s only 40,289 total votes, 2626 fewer votes than Pressley received in her race.

 

How was Pressley able to win more votes in comparison to the leading mayoral candidate—especially given the fact that Pressley competed in a larger pool of candidates? She won because she was able to consolidate her base of votes from women, people of color and progressives. Let’s look at this from a demographic perspective using Ward 18, which encompasses Hyde Park This neighborhood embodies one of the greatest VOC potentials for future Mayoral candidates of color and women.

 

Here some important trends that have emerged:

 

  1. This area is considered a super voter “sweet spot” – an area with a large pool of voters that consistently vote.
  2. Hyde Park’s African American and Latino populations grew 22% and 67% respectfully making people of color 78% of the population.
  3. Pressley won Ward 18 with 5490 votes.
  4. This year, the top 3 mayoral candidates of color Charlotte Golar Richie, Felix Arroyo, and John Barros, split the Ward 18 vote 2314, 1160, and 1039 respectively.

 

The splintering of the vote was also seen in neighborhoods like Hyde Park where the lack of consensus among progressive groups and voters created conflicting loyalties. Arroyo grew up in Hyde Park but found it difficult to close the vote gap without networking and unifying efforts with other candidates like John Barros.

 

An additional factor in this year’s race was money.  For example, close to $2 million had been spent to help Walsh by September 15th and Connolly’s campaign spent more than $1.1 million by then. Charlotte Golar Richie never came close to that amount and was one of the last candidates to jump in the race.  By contrast, both Walsh and Connolly had a head start while quietly campaigning before Mayor Menino announced his retirement.

 

Needless to say, the demographic advantage doesn’t guarantee that three strong candidates of color can run in the same election and win. However, Pressley’s citywide success points to an opportunity for investment in wards that may yield a significant return. This also means the opportunities in neighborhoods like Hyde Park have become prime openings for good candidates with commonsense messages to breakthrough. We believe that if this electorate is engaged with resources, the right message, a good candidate, and a successful voter registration campaign – we may take a huge step forward towards electing Boston’s first women or person of color mayor.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

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