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

Boston Will Yet Have a Mayor of Color

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

IMMIGRATION REFORM, ONE WRONG VOTE AND THIS MAY BE GOP’s LAST TERM

By Kirk Clay

 

U.S. House of Representatives Set To Cast The Final Vote On CIR

 

This is a seminal moment for America. After decades of negotiating, compromising, and peaceful protest our U.S. House of Representatives is set to cast the final vote that will decide more than just the future of 11 million undocumented immigrants. Their vote could also decide which Congressperson gets a one way ticket home.  As many as 14 Republicans could lose their seats if they block a path to citizenship.

 

This political dynamic didn’t happen overnight.  Progressive institutions started organizing for “Compassionate Comprehensive Immigration Reform” years ago. In fact, this movement was based on the premise that if population groups who historically did not participate fully in our democracy were engaged by trusted institutions, their increased civic participation and voter turnout rates would impact Congressional politics.

 

These organizations are now busy putting plans in place and gearing up to launch civic engagement efforts for the 2014 election cycle. If resourced properly these efforts could change the political landscape for decades and alter the political balance of power on the Hill.

 

How did we get here? Did obstructionists create this political environment? Yes.

 

Note that political demographics have trended towards Democrats for years but what’s new is unity and enthusiasm. LAT House ChartAdditionally, many voters of color (VOC) are being constantly motivated due to the dysfunctional nature of the House of Representatives. It’s reasonable to assume that there will be a sizable cluster of “passionate” voters of color who will volunteer for national and local campaigns in 2014.

 

In fact, most political experts assume Republicans will reuse overplayed tactics in this upcoming immigration fight. After testing and evaluating voter responses in 2012, it’s likely that “self-deportation” sympathizers will help the Democrats net at least another fourteen seats in Latino districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily Latino but have enough diversity to impact the election.

 

As the fundamentals of the 2014 elections begin to develop, there are a few variables to keep in mind. As listed in The Pew Research Center’s recent national survey:

 

  1. Immigration: By a margin of nearly two-to-one, Republicans say the party is not conservative enough
  2. Republican-leaning voters (54% to 40%) want the party’s leaders to move further to the right.
  3. Over 35% of GOP voters say that, in dealing with Democrats, congressional Republicans have compromised too much. While 27% say they have not compromised enough and 32% say they have handled it about right.

While Congress is viewed collectively as dysfunctional, Republicans seem to be split on the style of Congressperson they would vote for. That’s a messaging problem the Democrats will not have in 2014.

 

Take California’s 21st Congressional district where the demographics are 71% Latino, 4% African American, and 3% Asian. The President won this district with 54% of the vote and GOP Congressman David Valadao will have a strong challenge from a Latino Democrat next year. All it would take is one “wrong” vote and this may be his last term.

 

Granted it’s too early to know the full impact of CIR, but we do know that VOC civic participation rates are increasing across the all districts. Also, there is a greater awareness of the politics around Latino issues. A testament is seeing a growing number of Latino voters becoming politically active on social media.

 

Only time will tell what influence this vote will have, but I’m anticipating that there are many positive changes to come. As America’s rising electorate continues to grow we know that politics will never be the same.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

VOTERS OF COLOR WILL IMPACT NEW JERSEY’S SPECIAL PRIMARY

By Kirk Clay

Will Voters of Color Do It Again In 2013?

The potential historic victory of Cory Booker as a nominee for the U.S. Senate is a cause for celebration. At this hopeful moment we must remember our core objective –transform voter energy into a vehicle that changes the political balance of power. This can only happen if following Election Day we unite and continue to catalyze this emerging new majority coalition.

As PAC+ begins the final stretch of this primary election, we must continue encouraging New Jersey’s multiracial new majority to engage in the electoral process. We must stay committed to advancing our mission of expanding the electorate to include voters who remain on the political margins of our society.NJ Demo

This expansion will be accomplished by enhancing and broadening key components of our efforts — combining traditional civic engagement programs with 21st century demographic data and civic engagement technology.

The technology, strategy and staff put in place gives us the capacity to carry out a plan to train, educate, and mobilize a significant number of voters of color (VOC) in the primary. As a result, PAC+ is now in a position to help elect Cory Booker.

For PAC+ this epic moment presents both a historic opportunity as well as a significant responsibility. Created to build a voter program that is driven by New Jersey’s changing demographics, we felt compelled to make this chance for New Jersey to elect its first African American U.S. Senator our marque effort for 2013.

I remember when we first started this journey in 2011. I remember how challenging it was to excite New Jersey civic engagement organizations about demographic politics — something that is going to happen in the future but already impacting the political landscape. We started with a poll, evidence based data, and a voter file. After two years of hard work, election votes will be calculated and results evaluated.

It was like a roller coaster ride. By mid-June it appeared that there would be a turnout problem in eight New Jersey counties with historically low VOC turnout rates. According to internal data the counties of Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Middlesex, Passaic, and Salem were in danger of suffering low midsummer turnout rates.

For example, in Atlantic only 7,572 votes were cast in this year’s Democrat gubernatorial primary. Then Bergen, peculiar for north New Jersey, reported just 14,036 votes – far lower than the 16,197 from 2005. In Gloucester only 5,613 residents voted – almost 1,000 less than in 2005. In Middlesex we saw a 4,991 vote drop from 2005. All of those counties had turnout rates considerably better in 2005.

The numbers in Atlantic County were especially troubling because both the Democrat and Republican campaigns had spent a considerable amount of time engaging Jersey shore voters who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Clearly the multiple issues related to recovering from a disaster were a factor in the decreased effectiveness of conventional voter contact programs.
What very few realized is that Atlantic also underwent a political geographical transformation as well. In 2010, the county’s population increased by 8% with 16,000 inactive voters and 56,000 unregistered residents. Moreover voters of color make up 39% of the population.

In a few days, we will see the true value of an organized VOC electorate during a low turnout election. Recognizing the power that VOC have in pushing their candidate to the top, PAC+ was determined to follow the advice of Yale professor Don Green: “personal contact by a trusted messenger is the gold standard.”

Unlike most political organizations, PAC+ did not neglect this core principle in its efforts to reach VOC. It’s reflected in everything from our data collection strategies to cross-platform civic engagement and was utilized to strategically micro-target voters of color.

The power of this moment is the narrative which describes what most political experts know is true –if we strategically register, educate, and turnout VOC we can not only flip the outcomes of their specific neighborhoods and districts, but have major impact in deciding the next Mayor, U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator and Governor.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR HAVE THE ABILITY TO BREAK THIS CYCLE OF DYSFUNCTION

By Kirk Clay

Can Anger and Frustration Be Channeled to Achieve Significant Gains in Politics?

Two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved People of Color

Summary Map of counties covered and not covere...

Summary Map of counties covered and not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(POC) in Texas received word from the Union Army on June 19, 1865, that they were free. Today, that date is remembered and celebrated as Juneteenth and it commemorates the celebration of freedom for all Americans. It is also the day Election Protection – a program designed to protect all American’s right to vote – was launched. The pilot program was launched in Virginia’s 2001 special election to fill a seat in Congressional District 4.

I remember the day we began Election Protection – it was in response to the November 2000 election disaster. Progressive Whites and Voters of Color (VOC) in many states registered and turned out in record numbers, but many were turned away or had their votes invalidated.  We all know the story line of that election. But, in the discussion about which candidate won or lost and why, what is often unnoticed is that the biggest losers were, without a doubt, the voters.

Just like the disenfranchisement of 2000, floods of regressive laws that are being passed in red state legislatures today are hurting voters. The Tea Party extremists behind these initiatives remind us of how fragile our voting rights really are. In fact, VOC still face a combination of systemic inequities, inadequate voter education, and inappropriate actions by government officials. To make matters worse, as expressed at a recent anti-immigration rally, many of these obstructionists believe “The Melting Pot Floweth Over.”

There is a real danger that the actions of these politicians could fuel cynicism and apathy in our democracy. What if potential young voters and voters of color (VOC) respond by reaffirming the sentiment that their vote is unlikely to change this dynamic? This is especially a problem among first time voters that made strides last year in electing officials that share their interests. Note that these voters are historically marginalize in mid-term elections anyway and are more likely to get stuck in a long line or have their votes discarded altogether.  But along with that vulnerability, there is the real problem of intentional voter suppression.

For example, while voters under 30 were 21% of the electorate in Virginia in 2008 that number dropped to 10% in 2009. Also, voters waited an average of 23.6 minutes to vote in 2012 and their number didn’t match 2008.

This could be pivotal in a district of influence – Congressional district that is not necessarily majority minority but has enough diversity to impact the election. Like Virginia’s CD-4 which is close to 5% Latino, 31% African American, 2% Asian and President Obama garnered close to 50% of the vote.

That’s why it’s so important to invest in these communities early. These near-tragedies of generational subjugation can be avoided with a cross platform civic engagement program. You can shape the future of politics by taking compassionate measures and advancing the authentic voices of our movement. That process begins with embracing diversity. The greatest gift we can give to our future leaders is an opportunity to vote.

In the end, getting young people to engage in politics is like trying to push a boulder over a hill. When you have a strong progressive coalition to help, that boulder begins to move more quickly. For better or worse, young voters of color will move to the next phase during which the boulder will begin to charge down the hill. The impact of this rolling stone could be epic. Politically, you do not want to be on the other side of the boulder. #NJ123

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

1+2+3 = SURGE, YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR READY TO GO

English: Vote for senator, by county. Results ...

By Kirk Clay

Will Young Voters of Color Amplify Their Voice in New Jersey 2013 Elections?

There are plenty of reasons for New Jersey’s young surging electorate to vote this year. They will have a chance

to elect New Jersey’s next U.S. Senator who will be their voice in D.C. on issues that matter to them.  Issues like financial aid for college, student loan debt and jobs. Also, they have the opportunity to elect the next Governor.

To succeed they must remember 1+2+3.  First, they need to vote on August 13th for the special primary election.  Second, they need to vote again for their candidate on the October 16th – United States Senate special election.  And three, they will claim victory when they vote on the November 5th gubernatorial election. One, two, three. August 13, October 16, November 5th.

If young people vote, they will be part of a historic game-changing election!  With the entry of candidates like Cory Booker, the political narrative has changed. Now their vote can reflect the changing demographics of New Jersey.

This year’s election also provides an opportunity for the rising progressive electorate to expand, deepen and strengthen its proven game-changing system which turns out record levels of voters of color (VOC). This will be a demonstration on how new media, politics, and old fashion “Get Out The Vote” tactics can impact voter turnout rates in communities of color. As established in 2012, this electorate has the power to elect candidates — including women and African Americans — to local offices, state capitals, and U.S. Senate.

So how will these voters affect this year’s election? Conservative candidates 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. While voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for New Jersey in 2008, that number dropped to 9% in 2009. The same is true for Voters of Color; they were 27% of the electorate in 2008 and only 25% in 2009. However, their vote share bounced back to 30% in 2010 and soared to 31% in 2012.

What’s the difference this year? Just like in the 2012 campaign, new tools for contacting progressive voters make it possible to expand the electoral map at critical points in the campaign. For example, there are close to 500,000 eligible Voters of Color in 13 important cites like Newark, Jersey City, Camden, and Atlantic City. These communities are heavily populated, under-resourced, and ripe for cross-platform civic engagement. Strategic use of 21st century data-driven technology in these and other cities will ignite key voters and increase turnout throughout the state.

In the end, we have to remind ourselves that all elections are about voter registration and turnout. Therefore, any effort that has success reaching unique pockets of voters will have an impact at the polls. These voters can easily overwhelm daily tracking polls by amplifying their voice on Election Day. All it will take is a combination of traditional civic engagement tactics combined with the use of various social media mediums to engage and expand the state’s Youth and People of Color electorate. This strategy of micro-targeting voters proved to be clutch in 2012 and it delivered a powerful victory for the progressive coalition.

Simply put, politicians will not survive in this new political landscape if they can’t connect with the rising electorate. Understanding the nature of cross-platform civic engagement is essential in today’s new political landscape. In the past, networking may have been a second tier concern but it has become the loadstone of demographic politics. Campaigns that don’t understand this will miss the mark. If they can’t intimately link to communities of color with authentic social media tools they will fall short. It’s as simple as New Jersey 1-2-3. #NJ123

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

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

THE NEXT BOSTON MAYOR MAY BE A PERSON OF COLOR | Create infographics

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

MEGA-MARCHERS SOON TO BE MEGA-VOTERS | Create infographics

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

YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR MAY DO IT AGAIN IN 2014 | Infographics

THE RISING ELECTORATE MAY FLIP THE RED HOUSE TO BLUE

By Kirk Clay

Immigration Reform Leaders Arrested 5

Evidence Based Data Shows a Tectonic Shift In The Political Landscape

I attended a meeting of political leaders recently and someone raised a point that struck me as insightful. The comment, “It’s sad to say but the GOP hasn’t made any progress in reducing their enormous cultural blind spots,” was referring to Jeb Bush.  Recently he described a path to citizenship as an affront to our legal system.

The point made by the political leader was that this statement sounds like self-deportation to most progressive whites and People of Color (POC). While that might not have been the intent, this is the exact “dog whistle” that not only turned off Latino voters in 2012 but helped turn them out in historic numbers. This time, it may not only cost the GOP eight seats in the House but the majority.

In 2012, the Democrats won over 1 million more votes than Republicans nationally and took out eleven Tea Party members from the class of 2010. If this trend holds, the 2014 midterm election will look a lot like 2006. The Democrats, powered by the new rising electorate, could produce the 17 seat gain that flips the House.

It’s hard to miss the facts explaining this tectonic shift in the political landscape:

  1. Over 6 percent of GOP House members are representing districts won by President Obama; there are more than 17 GOP members in susceptible districts.
  2. Redistricting has placed a significant number of Voters of Color (VOC) in 223 districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election.
  3. A number of these districts of influence are Republican and “ideologically” hostile to VOC. This may boomerang and drive progressive voters to enthusiastically express their discontent.
  4. GOP House members no longer have the 2010 “obstruction card” to play. They have played that card a few times before and this electorate is inoculated so the conservative vote share may drop to 2006 levels next year.

17 CDs With POC %

It’s not just that many of these POC districts of influence were fluid last year; it’s that the President won many of these districts in a hyper partisan environment. That’s probably why Virginia GOP House member Scott Rigell didn’t hesitate to join the President on stage during the contentious economic fight. His district, which President Obama won with over 50% of the vote, is 6% Latino, 21% African American, and close to 5% Asian.

I believe that forecasting election results are about more than knowing past statistics.  It’s also about identifying where voting trends meet demographics.

It is true that the current political landscape is hyper polarized and the last redraw packed Republican districts to be smaller and whiter. That just means the fundamentals will solidify faster and there will be fewer surprises.

This also means the opportunities in POC districts of influence have become prime openings for good candidates with commonsense messages to breakthrough.  Regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation, if the electorate is engaged with the right message, a good candidate, and a voter registration campaign – Congress may soon feel this epic POC electoral impact.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC