Opportunities to Effect Change

Opportunities to Effect Change

This is a multi-entry blog about the American Rising Electorate, authored by a Sr. Advisor, Analyst, and Strategist (#PoppingTheCLUTCH).

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In the end, this is a blog about opportunities, as well as strategies for engaging “communities that share the same interests” and ways to encourage them to become a part of the solution through donations, volunteering, social, academic, and civic engagement. Although this blog pulls from my experiences in the organizations listed below, in no way does that render our model ineffective for other non-profits, charitable institutions, businesses, government agencies, or for-profit institutions. Truthfully, I’ve witnessed these strategies effectively applied in just about every organization and effort conceivable. I learned these strategies while working for the institutions listed below and each provided me a unique set of issues, demographics, geographies, and resources to pull from.

 

Within these organizations we will explore the nuances of “non-ethnic” vs “authentic” engagement tactics and learn if they work or not. We believe the problem a current collaborative faces is that they’re one-dimensional in their approach. Their work is based on an assumption that “non-ethnic” civic behavior is the standard. Therefore, the behavior of people of color is viewed as “deviant” versus being understood as behavior rooted in and reflective of a different set of values, beliefs, experiences and world view.

 

One problem with this approach is that we fail to recognize opportunities to understand the complex nature of political behavior by people of color. This makes it difficult to learn from experiences that vary from the so-called standard and that makes it almost impossible to put into practice policies that will empower the progressive community to move forward.  Instead, we waste time on forcing a square block into a round hole. We direct resources to develop programs, services, methods and frameworks that ultimately do not deliver the desired outcome and do not develop leaders of color who speak the language of the desired voter. Our approach is different and the blog that I have chosen to write will be rooted in our experiences and presented within that context.

 

Before yours truly arrived in this town, I had no idea that I would become a Sr. Advisor, Analyst or a Strategist. In fact, I came to Washington more than 20 years ago as an intern in the office of Presidential Personnel. Functioning as an intern at the White House not only expanded my capabilities but also set in motion a series of experiences that laid the foundation for what would become the opportunity of a lifetime. As a result of that opportunity I became a Sr. Advisor for PowerPAC+ where I was groomed to be a political tactician. While there, we perfected our work to transform the nescient “Rising American Electorate” to what is now a driver of American politics. This blog gives an account of that conversion and in what way our approach shaped it.

 

Our methodology was cultivated by way of my personal journey, from the White House, People For the American Way, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to Common Cause, the NAACP, A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Tavis Smiley Foundation, Maryland Leads and PowerPac+. The tactics learned in these organizations consequently develop into a point of reference for most of our handiwork through the decade. Throughout my time in Washington, I’ve toiled and tinkered with many strategies, methods, and systems to create a structure to hang our ideas on while we refine and develop innovative ways to edify the models. Within PowerPAC+, there were five people in particular who were significant in advancing these ideas. At the NAACP there were dozens of leaders, members, activists, unit leaders, state presidents, and board members — including individuals whose anecdotes are recounted later in this blog. Note that each and every one played an important part, especially the board of directors for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and people I regard as friends, they were all ground-breaking innovators who molded these theories and efforts. It is our aspiration that over the course of the next several months you will find something in our learning to help you connect with the information and resources you need to support and further your mission.

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Kirk Clay is a partner at Capitol View Advisors a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

A Balanced Viable Plan to Create Opportunity for All

 

This is a multi-entry blog about the American Rising Electorate, authored by a Sr. Advisor, Analyst, and Strategist (#PoppingTheCLUTCH).

By Kirk Clay

Evidence based civic engagement is a fairly nascent field. In fact, up until 20 years ago what people now think of as civic engagement for “people of color” was characterized naively as just minority outreach. Therefore, it’s no wonder that many organizations and efforts struggle to identify what an effective civic engagement plan is and by what method to execute one successfully. Above the CloudsFirst, it’s tough to pinpoint a distinct all-encompassing explanation of what civic engagement is. Second, it’s equally as difficult to find an all-inclusive formula for putting together a viable program. Lastly, the moment an approach is successful it’s dismissed as predictable or characterized as a chance occurrence so we can’t learn anything new from those experiences.

This line of thinking is incorrect. On the contrary, civic engagement is the act of balancing priorities and tactics while executing an intentional plan in places where you intend to score a victory. An effort can give rise to a “balanced viable plan” by designing and cherry-picking a unique suite of tactics to capture the attention of people who are ready to take action. As a result, true civic engagement calls for connecting and supporting clusters of people who have broad networks of their own.

Additionally, true civic engagement calls for assembling platforms of engagement around those communities of shared interests. In a nutshell, civic engagement is opportunity. In fact, true civic engagement is a multicultural effort that intentionally creates value for those communities in an attempt to generate opportunity for all involved.

Creating opportunity is a difficult task. The concept of “opportunity” itself may run counter to an organization’s short term aspirations. From our stand point, a great deal of organizations and efforts are too unintentional in creating opportunity when creating their plans. They start with good intentions and after a few bumps in the road or after a small set back they lose conviction. Furthermore, the leader of an effort may become overwhelmed with “urgent but not important” issues and set aside what’s really important for the organization. Sometimes it seems as though these leaders are awe-struck when presented with a flurry small short-term fires and respond by abandoning thoughtful long-term opportunity building work.

Too many organizations and efforts deal with this problem by using “ineffectual methods” as a substitute for creating opportunity, For example, when they first set out to engage communities of color they define civic engagement as an aspiration. Aspirations are the building blocks of a good civic engagement plan however that’s not all there is. Then the organization doesn’t put forward a “viable model” or of a clear path forward. If they do put forward a vision it’s usually an outline and it does not take into account the aspirations of the diverse communities and geographies the organization intends to score a victory with. Meanwhile, there certainly is not enough attention paid to what creates opportunity for those communities of interest.

Let’s look at how this plays out in an organization with a goal of increasing people of color civic representation.

  • Immediately following the Civil War over 600 African Americans occupied various elected offices across the nation.
  • By 1965, only 300 African Americans occupied elected offices.
  • In 1970 there were about 1,500 African American elected officials.
  • In 2000 the number of African Americans in elected offices had reached about 9,000.

Based on the number of elected officials reported by the Census Bureau in 1992 – 513,200 – in 2000 African American elected officials were 2% of all elected officials. African Americans were 12.3 % of the population. Overall, that number has declined in most categories for every election since 2000.

This kind of analysis is critical for connecting with communities of color. What these communities want and need is an opportunity to grow. To tap into the power of the “Rising American Electorate” you have to have a comprehensive strategy that spells out everything your organization will do to create that opportunity and where you will do it. A balanced viable plan can be the foundation of a successful effort if it’s rooted in evidence based data.

The demographics in America are changing so rapidly that it’s unfeasible to assume that business as usual will win the day. Instead, it’s the organizations and leaders that learn to embrace these changes that will succeed. Also, they will be the best equipped to capitalize on new opportunities for engaging communities that share the same interests.

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Kirk Clay is a partner at Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Expanding Outreach To Alleviate Poverty in America #EP123Vote

By Kirk Clay

 

Have we spent too many years overlooking the real challenges of our economy? Are there still too many of uMLK Jr.s living from paycheck to paycheck? After years of cautious and prudent federal spending, the economy is finally turning the corner yet many of America’s families are more financially insecure now than their upper income counterparts.

 

Yes the federal debt has decreased significantly and many of us are beginning to recover from the great recession.  However a recent Pew Poll demonstrates that we are also experiencing wealth inequality. We now see a gulf of financial experiences developing between upper income and lower income Americans. Moreover, the enormous difference in net worth for White, Black, and Latino households is becoming a bellwether for income inequality. What’s shocking is that the impact of this financial insecurity is felt in white working class families as well as lower income families of color. As demonstrated in a recent Pew Poll:

  • People of Color and women make up over 61% of the financially insecure community — about 48% are white non-Hispanic.
  • Unmarried women represent over 42% of the community.
  • Just under 53% of this community is unemployed — 20% employed part-time.

Today, there are many efforts underway aimed at addressing important issues that impact financially insecure communities–minimum wage, access to quality education, housing, healthcare, and food security. Ironically, in order to participate in these transactional experiences an individual needs to have a sense of financial security. This leaves “good” hard work people living on the margins of society and grasping for a ladder of hope and opportunity. It’s hard to take advantage of efforts centered on livable wages, access to education and housing when you don’t have bus fare or even worse the buses are not operating in your community.

 

This leads me to ponder about the old adage– “abandoned voters disengage.” How does this dynamic play out in their lives?  What impact does it have on our democracy, in particular civic engagement where regardless of one’s zip code and bank account each citizen has a vote. What is the correlation between income inequality and voting—one of the most powerful ways to have impact?

 

The midterm elections are a good place find answers. Wealthier, older men who are less racially diverse make up a large portion of the midterm electorate.  For example, in the 2014 midterm, only 20% of the least financially secure citizens voted.  Here are additional data points to consider:

  • Last year, over 93% of the financially well-off community said they were registered to vote – compared to less than 55% of the least financially secure.
  • Less than 31% of the least financially secure cast a ballot in the 2010 midterm elections – compared to more than 68% of the financially well-off.
  • Over 33% of the least financially secure community articulated “no choice” in candidates regardless of party affiliation – a clear sign of apathy.

 

We all know that democracy works best when everyone has a voice and their values are represented.  After all, most voters support candidates that reflect their interests. The problem for our democracy is that candidates inclined to create policies that “promote and enforce giving everyone a fair shot” will not have a fair shot if their voters stay home on Election Day. This creates an unbalanced political system that gives the financially “well-off” an unfair advantage over financially insecure Americans.

 

I believe we are in the midst of a watershed moment. There are many organizations working hard to build social, political, and financial capital for people living at or below the poverty line. Although they have enormous challenges to face in upcoming years they must do more to help our neighbors engage. As the next decade approaches, it’s important to keep in mind that our ultimate objective should be to create a nation where everyone in need of assistance receives it and leads a life of respect, dignity and opportunity. Let’s try to alleviate poverty in America.

 

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Kirk Clay, Senior Advisor

#GA123: Politicians Should Be About More Than Impeachment –  Freedom Summer ‘64 to Freedom Fall ‘14

By Kirk Clay

If you read the most popular headlines today, you would think that these are unequivocally the worst of times in America. They say that Congress wants to impeach the President of the United States. They say that the economy has stalled and Americans who work hard and play by the rules don’t have an opportunity to live the American4.3 dream. They say that our immigration system is broken and that the children of undocumented immigrants should be punished for what their parents did years ago. They say that voters of color have an unjust and disproportionate influence on the political system.
These headlines only tell part of the story. The backstory is far more complicated. For example, our economy has grown every month for the last five years. Unemployment is on the decline and has reached its lowest level in eight years. Added to that, our attitude towards comprehensive immigration reform has shifted to the point that now three fourths of the electorate believes that “deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States is unrealistic.” Lastly, most every American wants voting to be a basic right – like the freedom of speech.

So why doesn’t it feel like we’re making progress? Why are we so ready to believe the headlines? Sure, our economy is doing well but some of us are still nervous about a possible downturn — although there are no signs indicating that will happen. Is it that many of the jobs being created are low wage service sector jobs or tech jobs that involve cutting-edge skills? Is it because these are not the kinds of jobs that people living in poverty or losing unemployment insurance for the first time are positioned to take advantage of?

There has been a lack of progress in comprehensive immigration reform as well. Yes, a bill has passed the Senate and President Barack Obama says he would sign it but the bill has not made it to his desk. In fact, this policy may never be introduced in the House of Representatives for a vote. If it does the bill must also survive a grueling amendment process that is full of “poison pills” and middle-of-the-road compromises.

 

While politicians find it hard get anything done and continue to stall progress, deportations are at historic levels. In fact, the Congress member who calls for more boarder security seems to be really looking for an excuse to do nothing. Sure, the federal government has the obligation to address our boarder issues and crackdown on companies that knowingly break the law but we shouldn’t discriminate against any student that has been here for years, stayed out of trouble, and attends our schools.

Tying all of this together is our democracy and the freedom to vote. Politicians are now introducing policies that would manipulate election laws resulting in seniors and veterans – as well as people of color – suddenly not being able to vote.

 

In fact, African Americans, Latinos and young Whites are purported to be less likely than others to vote in midterm elections. While the current polling models that political experts use are barely an indicator for accurately measuring voter intensity for this demographic, we have to acknowledge their conclusions. They point to a trend that suggests voter turnout in these communities will decrease 3-5% every midterm election. If they’re correct, that would suggest a new negative dynamic in politics – one of our most fundamental freedoms is being inhibited.

The truth is that without the freedom to vote, we don’t have a democracy. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Right Act into law as an attempt to address widespread racial discrimination. Section 5 of the Act encompassed a preclearance provision that required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to obtain permission from the District of Columbia U.S. District Court or the U.S. Attorney General before enacting changes to their voting systems.

 

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 4b of the law – the formula that determines which governments and locations are tied to pre-clearance. Following the Shelby decision, there are now deep concerns about the impact newly passed voting laws will have on access to the ballot box for all Americans.  Especially laws related to early voting and voter identification.

These post-Shelby voter laws and other laws will greatly impact voter turnout for voters of color, women and young people.  This is particularly troubling when combined with the demographic and political transformation occurring all over America.  Not only will these laws affect turnout potential, they dilute the whole premise of our democracy where voting is intended to be the voice of the people.

 

Let’s look at Georgia for example, a state which is experiencing an extraordinary demographic and political shift.  Its voter identification law that was signed in 2005 by Governor Sonny Perdue is one of the harshest.  It requires that everyone voting in person has to have a state-issued photo ID for their ballot to count.

 

This law has a significant destabilizing impact on voters. Now that voters of color make up 33% of Georgia’s registered voters (30% Black, 2% Latino, and 1% Asian) this law is reminiscent to a “Jim Crow-era” act. People of color’s vote share grew from 32% in 2008 to 37% for the first time ever and Latinos will account for 52% of Georgia’s new eligible voters in 2016.

Laws like these only hurt democracy by slowing down the voting process. If we continue to overlook the real challenges of our economy, or neglect the people that our immigration laws impact, things will only deteriorate and foster an atmosphere of additional conundrums – saddling our children and grandchildren with an unfair burden of our creation.
Politicians should be about more than impeachment.  They should pass laws to fix these problems. Let’s get active. #GA123

 

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Kirk Clay, Senior Advisor

The Children of Freedom Summer 1964 Will Soon Be Leaders of Freedom Fall 2014 #GA123

By Kirk Clay

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The seeds planted 50 years ago in Mississippi during Freedom Summer are in full bloom. The children of 1964 — who are now leaders — are positioned to energize this generation of young voters of color and progressive voters for a historic turnout in the midterm election.

By taking advantage of 21st Century demographic data to identify, micro-target and energize voters they can usher in the Freedom Fall of 2014 to make a difference in city halls, state capitols and the U.S. Congress.

The reasons that this year’s Freedom Summer activists will be Freedom Fall Game Changers are centered on three actions known as “Get Active 1, 2, 3.”  This cross-platform effort focuses on the following actions:

  1. Register to vote
  2. Vote Early
  3. Volunteer on Election Day to help others vote.

Background: The stakes are high.  All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, over 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, over 35 state and territorial governorships, over 45 state legislatures, numerous state and local races, as well as various ballot initiatives will be contested.

Yet following the Shelby decision and the new voter ID laws that were passed, there is great concern about the impact that these attacks will have on access to the ballot box for voters who have historically been underrepresented. Especially for voters of color, women, youth, the elderly and voters with disabilities.

Case: Take Ohio for example where the Secretary of State has constantly pushed for policies that restrict the voting options that are the most popular and effective for people of color. This includes early voting, weekend voting, and same day voter registration.

Impact on Election 2014: People of color “vote early” twice the rate of other voters and regularly participate in “Take Your Soul to the Poll” early vote programs on weekends. These strategies energized voters of color and progressives in past elections — making the difference in races for Governor and Senate.

Arguably, the new restrictive voting laws in places like Ohio will affect the voters that had the most impact — Cuyahoga County. In the 2006 midterm, voters from that county represented 12% of the vote share and voters of color made up 14% of the electorate.

The Political Landscape: Concerned about the impact that the Shelby decision will have on access to the ballot box this fall, several civil, human and women rights organizations of all types from all over the country came together to power up for the midterm election.

On July 2, which was the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, these organizations embraced the first step of the “Get Active” framework and launched a national, non-partisan Power Check Day to encourage voters to verify their voting status. By embracing the cross-platform social media model, they also spoke out on issues like voting rights, women’s health, immigration, workers’ rights, marriage equality, health care, public education and other high-priority issues.  They even posted “selfies” holding up three fingers for the three steps in Get Active.

Participating organizations included the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, American Association of University Women, Election Protection, American Federation of Teachers, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Unidad Solutions, Rock the Vote, Long Distance Voter, The Leadership Conference, and Get Active 123.

Here are the results: The hashtag #GA123 was the centerpiece of Power Check, which recorded 5,035,716 impacts on July 2 with a reach of 1,562,408 and 3,556 followers per contributor. #GA123 tweets were retweeted 406 times. For the May 20th primary election day the hashtag was also used by voters in many states, generating 244,735 impressions with a reach of 120,903. On that day we recorded 67 tweets retweeted 26 times and 3,556 followers per contributor.

Wrap-up: What does the recent turnout for the primaries and participation in the July 2 Power Check Day say about civic participation 50 years later following the Freedom Summer?  Is there a way to keep voters of color and progressive voter turnout consistent?  Yes!  We have to honor the past and activate the future.

Our goal should be to increase the civic participation rate of voters of color by 3-5% for the 2014 midterm election. We can do this by tapping the power and reach of the progressive community’s capacity to mobilize voters who have historically been underrepresented at the polls.  We have to invest in early vote efforts that target voters who are at risk of being disenfranchised.

The truth is that we have come a long way since 1964.  In order for the children of Freedom Summer 1964 to be the leaders of Freedom Fall 2014 we must all have the courage to organize for our future–NOW.

 

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Kirk Clay, Senior Advisor – PowerPAC

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

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 Southeastern APRI 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, therefore #GA123 could have 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 progressives have of holding on in 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 does one 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 to 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.  As a result, Georgia residents live under political leadership that is hostile to public workers, unresponsive to calls for economic fairness, and which fails 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.  This will make it possible to narrow the gap between the number of eligible voters and the number of actual 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 the progressive legislative margins in this new battleground 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?

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

Election 2014: What Does Christie, McDonnell, and ScotT All Have In Common? | Create Infographics

HOPE DESERVES A SIMPLE VOTE, NOT ANOTHER SHOWDOWN

HOPE DESERVES A SIMPLE VOTE, NOT ANOTHER SHOWDOWN.

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

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

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

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