ELECTION 2013: THE NEXT BOSTON MAYOR MAY BE A PERSON OF COLOR

African Meeting House, Smith Court, Boston

By Kirk Clay

Examining the Political Dynamics Surrounding Boston’s Future

Recently America experienced a tragedy which tested the spirit of the entire nation, especially one of our most historic cities–Boston. This is indeed a resilient city so there’s no doubt that this senseless act of violence will only serve as a catalyst for their renaissance. As our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this terrible event, they are already showing signs of bouncing back.

As Boston grapples with the economic, cultural, and judicial effects this will have, it’s important to examine the political dynamics surrounding the future of the city. Remember that their population increased significantly in the last ten years. Yes, Boston grew 4.8% to 617,594 and it currently has over 85,000 “key” Voters of Color, but that only explains part of the story.

To understand Boston, you have to understand its historical role in shaping American politics. Their reputation for producing national leaders is a civic marvel and the stuff of political legends. Progressive Whites and People of Color (POC) are central to this history and have many stories to share about their “Pre-Civil War” Beacon Hill community. They will tell you with pride about the African Meeting House – the oldest surviving African American church edifice in the nation – where notables such as Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth waged many early civil rights battles alongside progressive Whites.

Present-day, they will tell you how surreal it feels to watch President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Governor Patrick, and their current Mayor lead Boston in unity after the marathon bombing. Not to mention how amazing it must be to see their beloved city embrace these three people of color as American leaders. Even Bostonians living in neighborhoods like Roxbury and Dorchester- two majority minority neighborhoods – are surprised and excited about the changing face of politics. It’s truly a new day when there are multiple POC candidates running for Mayor and city council, all with a decent shot at victory.

Of course, it’s tricky to measure the political effect this set of events will have on the consciousness of the electorate–however there are signs. While “flash point” political impressions are hard to quantify, the fundamentals of this race are beginning to solidify:

  • There are over 600,000 people living in Boston – 17% Latino, 24% African American, and 9% Asian.
  • There will be at least four city council members in the race for Mayor – a crowded field leaving plenty of open council seats.
  • The 2009 Mayoral race recorded about 101,000 votes – a small universe of voters.
  • The 2011 at-large city council race recorded a little more than 170,000 votes.

There will be a lot of candidates running for Mayor and that may split the independent vote share at least 4 ways. It will be the Voter of Color who will likely make up the difference. There is a path to elect a Person of Color as Mayor with the right candidate, message, and a brilliant voter registration and turnout program.

Make no mistake, this is going to take a block by block community organizing effort but Bostonians have a history of voting for the candidate that represents their interests. They’ve been waiting with eager anticipation for the opportunity to vote for a candidate that has the courage to stand up for all Americans. Just as in Patrick’s governor’s race, the right candidate can tap into this powerful coalition of progressive Whites and Voters of Color.

The marathon tragedy has brought together this patriotic city like never before and the positive energy that Bostonians project may become the catalyst for positive change in their politics.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

MEGA-MARCHERS SOON TO BE MEGA-VOTERS

English: March for America brings 200,000 peop...

By Kirk Clay

Election 2014 Will Be Next Demonstration For America’s Rising Electorate

The Latino community came out in extraordinary numbers for the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform March.” It was also remarkable to see so many progressive whites and People of Color (POC) exercising their First Amendment right.   As Reverend Joseph E. Lowery would say “You could almost see America expand the franchise before your eyes.”

People of all races and religions came from every corner of this nation to give their time, talent, and resources for a noble cause – helping their neighbor.  During the March’s aftermath, this same coalition will undoubtedly come together to push through commonsense, compassionate, and comprehensive immigration reform.  After that, they will stay together to fight future issues like disenfranchisement, voting rights retrogression, racial profiling, and discriminatory employment practices. Because midterm elections are influential in underlining national issues, 2014 will present a new opportunity for this rising electorate to vote their interest.

The month of March has affected Washington in a big way, bringing even more electoral momentum to an already high powered movement. As we saw in 2012, enthusiasm levels in communities of color tend to drive political activity at the state and local levels too. The next election will probably be a deliberate continuation of this trend. Just like the righteous issues of the past, immigration reform may be the flame that ignites massive voter registration and epic midterm turnout.

So who will benefit from this new political energy? It seems that the Democrats are in the best position at this point.  A strong Latino performance in 2012 has moved more than 12 Democrat swing seats to the safe column. Also, people of color (POC) helped to make 152 Democrat districts safer per districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election. This will free up resources for challenging a sizable portion of the GOP’s 30 swing seats and capturing the 17 seats needed to flip the House.

No one can be absolutely sure what will happen in November 2014 but it should be understood that the GOP will face a contextual impasse. Their party is dominated by Tea Party ideologues that are out of touch with the rest of America. As the latest Gallup poll shows:

  • 7-in-10 (69%) Americans would vote for a law to allow undocumented immigrants a chance to become U.S. citizens.
  • More than 7-in-10 (73%) Democrats and Democratic Leaners would vote for an earned path to citizenship.
  • 42% of Republicans and Republican Leaners would vote against an earned path to citizenship.

The bottom-line is that the GOP is now caught between deportation and amnesty – the wrong move could cost them the House. Take Nevada’s 3rd Congressional district where the demographics are 16% Latino, 6% African American, and 12% Asian. The President won this district with close to 50% of the vote and the GOP Congressman failed to get a clear majority of the vote. All it would take is one “47% style” comment or a “bad vote” and this may be his last term.

It’s ironic how obstructionist public policy created this political environment.  Meaning, the landscape is what it is today because of the policies embraced in the past.  Looking forward, it’s evident that this election will be about legislators channeling their patriotic spirit to understand more compassionately, share more generously, and legislate more unselfishly. It’s unmistakable that they have concentrated on obstruction too long and now it’s time to focus on improving the future quality of life for all Americans.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR MAY DO IT AGAIN IN 2014

Kirk Clay

Hit With The Sequester, Young Voters May Give An Encore Performance

Young voters played a significant role in Obama’s 2012 victory, helping him sweep all four battleground states—Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Nevada—with 60% of the youth vote.  Nationwide, voters under the age of 30 made up a large share of the overall electorate, representing 19% of all voters, an increase from their share in 2008.

English: Voters in line to cast ballots in 200...

As we move towards the 2014 midterms, we see signs of a repeat “high-water mark” performance.  Already young voters have been extremely vocal on progressive issues like immigration reform, gun violence, and marriage equality.  Fueled by the power of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook in politics, the youth electorate’s role is beginning to solidify.  According to 2012 exit polls, young voters expressed more progressive attitudes on a range of issues—from gay marriage to the role of the federal government—than other voters.  They are the only age group in which a majority said that the government should do more to solve problems.  Additionally, they are the most racially and ethnically diverse age group with over 40% currently being voters of color (VOC).

The stage is now set for the next act and it looks like the same play with a slightly different cast. It’s true that next year’s election will not have a leading man reciting “47%” lines. However, Romney’s performance was so memorable that similar lines may haunt GOP candidates in youth districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election.

Take the “sequester” fight for example. To most young VOC this seems to be an extension of the “Makers- vs – Takers” campaign. First, almost all young people in poverty will be affected by the “sequester.” Second, most of these voters fall into the “47%” grouping. Lastly, Congress recently approved a modification to the “sequester” that includes education cuts – federal loans, grants and work-study aid which have a greater impact on young voters.

The larger implications for election 2014 are clear, especially in battleground states like Florida where Leon and Franklin counties have high poverty and unemployment rates. It’s going to be hard for the GOP to persuade young VOC that “spending cuts” are good for their county. This is especially true in a college town Congressional district like Florida’s 2nd, where the demographics are 5% Latino, 24% African American, and 2% Asian. Note that this district has a significant young VOC population and President Obama received close to a majority of the vote in 2012.

The truth is, the GOP brand is taking a beating and the political environment is changing in states like Florida. As a matter of fact, Republicans are having an identity crisis while the Democrats are securing their image as champions of the Middleclass. This actuality is magnified on campuses like Florida A&M.

Looking towards 2014, it seems that 2012 was a trend setting year in politics. Young voters are continuing to move away from the GOP and increasingly support Democrats. If they continue to be engaged at a high degree, register to vote at healthy levels, and support commonsense candidates – then 2014 may look a lot like the 2006 midterm elections. If young voters stand up for what they believe in and fight for what they believe is right, they will bring new energy to Washington.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC