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

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

HOPE DESERVES A SIMPLE VOTE, NOT ANOTHER SHOWDOWN

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy speaking to...
Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy speaking to a crowd of African Americans and whites through a megaphone outside the Justice Department; sign for Congress of Racial Equality is prominently displayed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

Washington’s Political Gridlock Can Become A Self-inflicted Wound

 

For months there have been endless warnings of the economic, military, and societal decay that will take effect if obstructionists in Congress repeat their 2012 “do-nothing” tactics. Their political roadblocks now extend past traditionally non-partisan issues like infrastructure spending to include Presidential appointments. Without question, the class of 2010 has spent too much time fighting the commonsense proposals of a twice elected President that has the overwhelming support of the American public. This reminds me of something my grandpa would say – “Son, this seems like a long hot walk for a short drink.”

One of the most egregious recent examples of this obstruction has nothing to do with past political inaction but everything to do with the future of voter empowerment. As the President pointed out in his State of the Union speech, Americans like 102-year-old Desline Victor waited hours to cast her ballot in 2012. It’s a shame that 49 years after the 24th amendment banned the discriminatory practice of the poll tax people of color (POC) are still saying “we deserve a simple vote.” What’s more troubling is that even the Republican’s brightest leader who is a person of color refused to mention the Voter Empowerment Act – a bill that would ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans – in his response to the State of the Union speech. In fact, he barely mentioned immigration reform.

It’s unacceptable that Latinos and African Americans waited an average of 20 minutes to cast their ballot in the 2012 election. That’s nearly twice as long as whites. It’s even more astonishing that nothing is being done in states like New Jersey and Virginia that have a contested race for Governor this year. A New York Times/CBS News poll points out that voters in Virginia waited an average of 23.6 minutes to vote. Also, thousands may have left the polls without voting.

It’s no wonder that people of color are voting for Democrats more these days. Just look at the Asian American (API) vote for example. Their national vote share has ballooned from 2% of votes cast in 2004 to 3% in 2012. Moreover, the API citizen voting-age population (CVAP) is now over 3% and their support for Democrats increased from 56% in ’04 to 73% in ’12. In 1992, President William Clinton only received 31% of their vote.

What does this mean for Congress? Will the rising electorate of progressive whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, unions, and young voters force Congressional extremists to change their obstructionist ways? As people of color begin to exert their political influence, will these self-inflicted wounds help the Democrats flip the Red House to Blue in 2014?

No one knows for sure but President Obama did win a bunch of Republican congressional districts in 2012. In particular, he won New Jersey’s CD 2 with over 53% of the vote in both ’08 and ’12. This seat has over 100,000 voters of color fired up and ready to vote at a moment’s notice. We also see the potential impact in upstate Bergen County where over 25% of the eligible voters are not registered. The population in this county, which includes Hackensack, has grown 2.4% to 905,116 residents and is now 6% African American, 16% Latino, and 14% Asian Pacific Islander. This is a significant factor given that Hackensack has over 14,000 “key” voters of color and precincts like Hackensack 2-01 could be a bellwether.

As we move forward, the work of authentic leaders like New Jersey’s Cory Booker will play a significant role in helping to shape the electoral landscape. If passed, the Voter Empowerment Act will improve our electoral process by decreasing barriers to voting. However, as election reform results begin to run parallel with the level of progressive civic participation, expect an increase in the effort to obstruct these policies. The only cure for this form of politics is hope and change.

What many politicians don’t understand is that in order to inspire voters they have to embrace hope.  In fact, it’s probably the only way to survive in this new political environment. We now see Americans feeling better about the direction of the country and rejecting the dark clouds of the past. The old strategy of “do-nothing” is wearing thin on this electorate’s patience. As voters become hopeful they tend to want more. They want more from their leaders, and deserve more than the usual dysfunction– they deserve a simple vote. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

CALL TO THE RISING AMERICAN ELECTORATE: IT’S IN YOUR HANDS

New Jersey is the most densely populated state...
New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

President Obama & Cory Booker Represent More Than The Turning of the Tide

There were many uplifting moments last week for progressive whites, young people, women, and people of color. The week was filled with energetic political events, parades, and plenty of moments that did more than entertain, they inspired.

Looking forward, the progressive network now has a unique opportunity to expand, deepen and strengthen its proven game-changing system which turns out record levels of voters of color (VOC). As demonstrated in 2012, these VOC have the power to elect candidates — including African Americans — to the mayor’s office, state capitals, U.S. Congress and the White House. On the horizon is the important 2014 mid-term elections where candidates of color are poised to become U.S. Senators if this voter power is tapped.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker represents a perfect example of what can happen in 2014.  His state of New Jersey — once known as the “pathway of the revolution” is still a symbol of patriotism. Booker’s use of twitter to rescue a freezing dog was an example of this new pathway. It demonstrated how new media, politics, and old fashion values can create a new brand of social patriotism.
New Jersey has experienced significant demographic changes which has impacted its political environment. The state has the seventh largest Latino population in the United States. Nearly 25% of NJ’s registered voters are VOC with the majority of them Democrats.  Among voters who are not registered, about 33% are people of color. That means close to 32% of New Jersey’s low propensity voters are VOC.

How does the fact that voters of color constitute a significant vote share affect New Jersey politics?  One example is Mayor Booker doing well against other possible candidates for the 2014 U.S. Senate race. A new poll by PowerPAC.org shows New Jersey Democrats overwhelming supporting Mr. Booker over Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rob Andrews, and State Senate President Steven Sweeney. New Jersey voters want to elect Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate by a margin of two to one. The poll also confirmed that Booker would easily defeat incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg.
What’s driving his numbers? The poll shows Booker’s advantages holding across geography, populations, and issues. Also, his social media savvy helps to keep his brand strong and get his message out. As mentioned above, after seeing a tweet about a freezing dog, Booker took immediate action to rescue man’s best friend.  That kind of social patriotism resonates strongly with voters.
By contrast, Pallone, Sweeney and Andrews, are not very well-known among the state’s registered Democrats, despite Pallone and Andrews having represented NJ in Congress for over two decades each, and Sweeney leading the state’s legislature.

 

Understanding the nature of VOC civic engagement is essential in today’s new political landscape. In the past, authenticity may have been a second tier concern but it has become the loadstone of demographic politics.  Appealing to pockets of VOC was once relegated to the campaign’s “base vote” operation.  Now it has become the soul of tactical electoral strategy. Campaigns are beginning to understand that the most effective way to expand the electorate and mobilize communities of color are with conduits that intimately understand those communities.

 

There are a few ways to ensure that VOC achieve their 31% vote share from the past election. The common denominator is the candidate. Every political leader must engage communities of color with authenticity and social patriotism.  For some, embracing the new realities of politics will require them to change. Overtime they will find it easier to step outside of their comfort zones and themselves. Then their actions will make a difference for others as well as themselves because it is the responsible thing to do. That’s popping the clutch.

Poll results can be found here. (“PowerPAC Poll on NJ Senate Race (PowerPoint File) PowerPAC”)

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

NEW JERSEY’S RISING ELECTORATE, READY TO VOTE

 

By Kirk Clay

 

Image representing Cory Booker as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

 

Booker Leads Pallone & Sweeney by More Than 2 to 1 for Lautenberg’s Seat

 

Washington, D.C.  – In a new poll released today by PowerPAC.org, New Jersey Democrats are expressing overwhelming support for Cory Booker as their next U.S. Senator over potential rival candidates Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rob Andrews, and State Senate President Steven Sweeney. By a margin of two to one, New Jersey voters want to elect Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate.

 

PowerPAC’s also poll confirmed that Booker would easily defeat incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg.  Booker’s advantages hold across geography, populations, and issues, according to N.J. Democratic voters.  “The population of New Jersey closely mirrors the Rising American Electorate of progressive whites, young people, women, and people of color,” said Steve Phillips, Chair of PowerPAC.org, “and this poll shows that the people of New Jersey clearly want Mayor Booker to become Senator Booker in 2014.”

 

Pallone, Sweeney and Andrews, according to the poll, are not very well-known among the state’s registered Democrats, despite Pallone and Andrews having represented NJ in Congress for over two decades each, and Sweeney leading the state’s legislature.   Those registered voters who do have an opinion on 11-term Member of Congress Frank Pallone are split evenly between those with a positive opinion of him and those with a negative opinion.

 

Methodology: PowerPAC.org worked with Merriman River Group to survey 1,170 New Jersey registered Democrats from January 7thto 9th. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/-2.90%.  The survey was conducted through automated telephone interviews.

 

Poll results can be found here. (“PowerPAC Poll on NJ Senate Race (PowerPoint File) PowerPAC”)

 

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

 

PowerPAC is a national social justice advocacy organization focused on expanding democracy by increasing civic participation of people of color.  In 2008, PowerPAC conducted a multi-state, multi-million dollar voter registration and mobilization program in 18 states, including New Jersey, during the 2008 Presidential election.  In 2012, PowerPAC launched PAC+, a new SuperPAC for America’s New Majority.