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 PEOPLE’S SUPER PAC

Native american majority and plurality Arizona...
Native american majority and plurality Arizona county map Majority-red Plurality-orange (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PAC+ LAUNCHES THE NEW AMERICAN MAJORITY PAC

PAC+, a new national network of leaders focused on democratizing money and politics to give voice to America’s New Majority, launches today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Recognizing that People of Color and progressive Whites are the New American Majority of people in the United States, PAC+ will combine the resources of its members and direct them to strategic races in states where the demographic revolution can change the political balance of power. In 2012, PAC+ is focusing on six strategic states — Texas, Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio, and California.

Led by the team that in 2007 created Vote Hope, the country’s first Democratic SuperPAC, PAC+ is an innovative approach to politics that weaves together demographic developments, technological tools, and network theory into a powerful force for change. “Currently a handful of billionaires are hijacking our democracy and advancing policies that are harmful to the majority of the American people. PAC+ is piloting a new model of SuperPAC that is focused on many donors, not mega-donors,” said Steve Phillips, Chairman of PAC+.

PAC+ is being launched by a National Board of over 70 community and political leaders in 16 states and is “powered by” PowerPAC.org, a social justice advocacy organization that coordinated the country’s first independent expenditure for Obama in 2007 and conducted a $10 million, 18 state electoral program targeting African American and Latino voters in key states. “Democrats spend tens of millions of dollars pursuing a strategy based on an outdated and inaccurate picture of the American electorate,” said Dr. Julie Martínez Ortega, President of PAC+. “The census data make clear that People of Color and progressive Whites are a majority of the U.S. population now, and our strategies need to shift accordingly,” added Dr. Martínez Ortega.

There are twelve million U.S. households of People of Color and progressive Whites with a household income of more than $100,000, and PAC+ is targeting less than 1% of that market, 100,000 people. “Many of us who benefited from the struggles that opened up the doors of higher education and corporate America are now in a position to give back,” said Maria Echaveste, Executive Committee member of the Democratic National Committee and the former Deputy Chief of Staff to President Clinton.

“Rather than get into a battle with the billionaires on the Right, major donors on the Left should invest their money in institutions and organizations that can unleash the power of the country’s demographic revolution, and PAC+ is just such an organization” said Susan Sandler, a philanthropist and private investor.

PAC+ will pool money from members across the country and direct those resources to strategic races in its six 2012 priority states. PAC+ is a federal political action committee and SuperPAC incubated by PowerPAC, a nonprofit advocacy and political organization. PowerPAC was organized to champion democracy and social justice in states and communities across the country and conducted the 2008 Obama independent expenditure campaign and a successful 2010 independent effort to help Kamala Harris win election as California’s Attorney General.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

MICRO TARGETING THE HEARTLAND, IT’S A POLITICAL JUMP BALL

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus where the Ohio...
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By Kirk Clay

Analyzing Ohio’s Voters and Making Final Four Predictions

I have to admit, I love it when the March Madness season comes around. There is something about completing bracket sheets for both the Women’s and Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments and developing a strategy for my favorite teams to go all the way. The best part is identifying all of the opportunities for “cinderellas” or “underdogs” to win games they are not supposed to win.

As we get closer to the final four teams and realize that there are simply too many long shots for our favorite teams to survive the entire tournament, we scrap the entire bracket and start all over again. The trick is to gather as many statistics as possible and choose the best path forward. Sometimes, we have to follow our heart and go with our gut instincts.

Watching the excitement of the “First Four” match up in Dayton reminded me of Ohio’s recent “Big Four” electoral impact events. I began to ask myself, “what did Representatives Kaptur, Kucinich, Schmidt, and the “Underdog” Congressional hopeful Joyce Beatty all have in common?” They all were affected by Congress’ abysmal 10% approval rating.

Does the results of their Congressional bids reflect the voters’ gut instincts? Clearly, there is a sentiment that Washington’s obstructive behavior–like the current fiasco over judicial vacancies, the stalled transportation bill, and the assault on women’s healthcare–will not be rewarded in 2012.

As our economy continues to recover and U.S. manufacturing is becoming this years “Cinderella story,” voters are becoming hopeful. Toledo added about 1,800 manufacturing jobs last year and more are coming this year with General Motors and Chrysler committing to hiring over 1,600 people by 2013. Correspondingly, unemployment has fallen to 7.9% and manufacturing now comprises 18.3 percent of Ohio’s economy. We now see that middle and working-class voters are rejecting the old strategy of “wining by demonizing the opposite party on a bumper sticker.” In November, they may counter 2010’s dysfunctional hate wave with a wave of “economically coherent” leaders.

To win the heartland, politicians have to revive Franklin Roosevelt’s “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition.” In fact, a modern coalition which includes progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, and Young Voters is the best path forward.

Remember the 2006 elections when Governorships and Senate seats flipped to blue in Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri?  That was the “Lunch Pail Coalition” in action. A significant factor in the election outcomes were Voters of Color (VOC). For example, look at Ohio’s Cuyahoga County.  That county, which includes Cleveland, was 12% of the vote share while VOC were 14% of the electorate.

This dynamic has played a significant role in Ohio where African American mayors have been elected in the seven major cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Youngstown, and Mansfield. Ohio voters have always been able to come together through a “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition” and elect candidates of color.

Looking forward to November 2012, I remain hopeful.  Although the 2010 census data shows Ohio losing two Electoral College votes, cities like Columbus grew by 10.6% to 787,033. This increase gives Columbus more than 145,000 “key” Voters of Color. That means the Democratic Primary winner Joyce Beatty, who is the first African American Congressperson from central Ohio to make it to the primary, can win in November.

Beatty has already demonstrated the impact of the “Lunch Pail Coalition” in Ohio’s new 3rd Congressional District by mobilizing the second largest VOC voting block of Ohio’s sixteen congressional districts. Her strategy to embrace the heart of the coalition by targeting high performing VOC precincts like the Southside, Northeast, and Eastside gave her strong voter support in precincts like 35-B, 17-F and 28-E. What’s more, Beatty won all but one of the twenty highest-turnout precincts in the district and received 15,231 votes district wide.

As the big dance towards November begins, it’s important to keep in mind that middle and working-class voters are not interested in obstruction by Congress. Why should they?  Ohio has increased its manufacturing jobs by about 4 percent since June, 2009. That’s 24,600 jobs for working families. Imagine how many more new jobs could be created if Congress worked together?  As Beatty said on election night “our voice will be part of doing new things.” We want our political leaders to get something done.

I agree.  Voters have little patience for bumper sticker solutions. We always root for the underdogs, even if that means voting for a slate of bracket busters. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

POLITICS IS A TEAM SPORT, COMING THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH

English: Cartogram of the 2008 Electoral Vote ...
Image via Wikipedia

By Kirk Clay

Political Trends May Reset 2012 Electoral Map

Every Thursday, I take my son to winter baseball camp. I enjoy watching him learn the fundamentals of fielding, throwing, and hitting. I watch him go over the same routine countless times so he’s prepared to make a clutch play if needed. As his dad and coach, I remind myself about Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson’s quote which speaks to the significance of me being there as the coach/manager for my son, “I’ll tell you what makes a great manager: A great manager has a knack for letting you know that they believe in you. They make you get more out of yourself. And once you learn how good you really are, you never settle for playing anything less than your best.”

I wish we could say the same about the GOP’s commitment to civil and human rights. They have made many attempts at garnering support among People of Color.  But as this week’s Arizona Republican debate came to an end, I began to contemplate if the GOP will lose that support.

For instance, the candidates’ answers on immigration reform made me wonder if they truly understood the depth of the firestorm that their “anti-immigration” rhetoric was fueling.  They threatened to veto the Dream Act, expressed full throated support of regressive Arizona-style immigration laws, and they were noticeably silent during the Adalberto Jordan scuffle.

Are they aware of the impact that these positions will have on People of Color when they vote?  Do they realize that these remarks indicate a pull away from any type of commitment to civil and human rights which was used by George Bush to sway People of Color to join the GOP bandwagon? 

Or maybe this suggests that they are ignoring the power that Arizona’s Voters of Color bring to the ballot box and gambling on the past where McCain won his home state by nine percent in 2008, Bush won by nine percent in 2004 and Bush won by six percent in 2000.  In fact, Bush won over forty percent of the Latino vote in 2004.  Maybe they believe they can back away from civil rights issues because they can win without any votes from People of Color.

What the GOP may not understand is that their policies toward Voters of Color (VOC) are turning states like Arizona into a battleground due to significant population shifts.  Remember that according to the 2010 census, Arizona’s population increased significantly in the last ten years. They gained a new congressional seat plus an extra Electoral College vote.
My advice to “political experts” is to not underestimate the VOC voting machine. For example, People of Color in Arizona make up 24% of the voting age population and in 2008 an impressive 74% of those registered to vote went to the polls. In fact, Voters of Color made up 18% of the vote share in the general election.

This number increased to 20% in 2010, a Tea Party wave year. Think about what could happen in 2012 if every eligible Voter of Color is energized? Particularly in cities like Phoenix where the population grew by 9.4% to 1,445,632 which included more than 280,000 “Key” Voters of Color. These Phoenix voters recently elected a Latino City Councilman and a new Democrat Mayor.

Keep this in mind– the entire Electoral College math could shift if significant investments by progressives, philanthropists, labor and political insiders were made to energize and turnout POC voters in Arizona.  If this happens and Arizona becomes a CLUTCH state, it could go from red to blue.  

Whether or not this is the year that Arizona becomes a CLUTCH State is unclear. The political geography and demographic numbers are there. All that’s needed is the level of support required to build the electoral vehicle to get the best performance from the emerging electorate.  I believe that the time has come for a political game changer to step to the plate. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

WEIGHING PUBLIC OPINION, TARGETING THE RIGHT VOTERS

English: John Lewis speaks during the final da...
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The Value / Vote Analysis for People of Color

By Kirk Clay

Growing up in Toledo, I can remember when a local sports team would win the city championship and advance to the state tournament. The affect it had on the community was tremendous. It energized us, and gave us a sense of achievement for our community and for the entire the city. It united all of Toledo.  In contrast, I’m not sure what to make of the recent firestorm over Chrysler’s NFL “Halftime In America” ad.

The ad seems to be a story about how one of our nation’s greatest companies is recovering from an economic downturn and now bouncing back to regain its role in the auto industry, the city of Detroit and the nation.  It reminds us that with hard work and tough decisions, we can bounce back.  Yet some politicians are complaining.  They believe the ad was not appropriate and some even suggest that it was promoting a partisan message.

Back in Toledo, we believed that a victory for our neighborhood was a victory for our city. So we always cheered for the home team. This applied to sports as well as politics. Even early in my career, all my impressions were centered by my father’s philosophy. “Son,” he would say bouncing a ball off his foot for effect, “you have to cheer a friend to endear a friend.”

In the 90’s, I remember working with a number of progressive partners to defeat a regressive ballot initiative in Colorado. I remember how challenging it was to excite People of Color (POC) about something they really didn’t identify with but were impacted by. We started down 20 points but after an aggressive public education campaign defeated the initiative by 12 points.  This happened because everyone was included and all segments of the community worked together as a team.

Fast forward a decade–the fruits of that kind of work were on full display at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. The event represented the culmination of a collective effort by Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans to encourage the election of the first Person of Color to the highest office of the land.

As I walked the city, going from event to event, we couldn’t help but to notice how unified the people were. There was something in the air. It had nothing to do with its thinness, although I did get a nosebleed one night.

In fact, I wondered if this was just something about those of us visiting the area or if people who lived in Denver felt the same way. So I went to one of Denver’s oldest African American neighborhoods, the historic Five Points community, in search of the real spirit.

I talked with a few residents and came to the conclusion that many were just as emboldened as the convention goers. In fact, many believed that any step forward for a person of color was a victory for every American. They referred to Denver’s long progressive history. They talked about the Buffalo soldiers, early Hispanic settlers, and the hundreds of activist that helped to give women more political and economic equality.

I asked them about the contours of Colorado’s current electorate. They told me about ex-Gov. Owens, and how Colorado had turned blue. They reminded me that even in 2004 when President Bush was re-elected and the GOP picked up seats on the Hill, the Democrats withstood the national surge. They took control of both houses in the Legislature and won a U.S. Senate seat. Moreover, in 2006 the governor’s office turned blue.

What the 2010 Census has revealed is that Colorado underwent a political geographical transformation. Note that President Obama won by 9%, the Democrats added another U.S. Senator, and they took five of the seven congressional seats. Moreover, people of color (POC) were 14% of the state’s vote share in 2008.  We saw more evidence of this shift in 2010 when during a wave year for the Tea Party, Colorado’s POC voters increased to 19% of the vote share and pushed the progressive statewide candidate over the top.

The truth is that the 2010 census only explains part of the story. Yes, the Denver population grew by 8.2% to 600,158 people and it currently has over 130,000 key POC voters. But it took the inspiration that the POC political leadership felt from the progressive community for so many to participate in the electoral process.  In fact progressive philanthropists and think tanks have invested resources in these communities for years.

The optimism of these progressive leaders continues to create opportunities for the POC political leaders to demonstrate their talents, skills, and value. Like my father says, we must understand that supporting a diverse team of political leaders will ultimately create an environment for success.

Rooting for higher POC voter registration rates, increased civic participation rates, and a more fair enforcement of civil and human rights laws only emboldens democracy. Progressive leaders understand that any victory for the team is a victory for America. That’s popping the clutch. 

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 Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

VOTE WITH POLITICAL CAPITAL, MAXIMIZE OUR INFLUENCE

People of Color May Impact Congressional Elections

By Kirk Clay

What a difference “a state” makes. Can you believe that the GOP nomination contest now features a front running Newt Gingrich? All it took was a 40% win in South Carolina and boom. Then tonight’s “Hispanic” debate in Jacksonville, FL may give Newt even more momentum. That may lead Romney to consider a flip on his “dream act veto” position. I guess the fact that Hispanics make up 12% of the Republican Party in Florida may have something to do with that.

As this election season kicks into full swing, it is clear that there are a number of important states and districts in which People of Color (POC) may help to decide both primary and general election results. For example POC in Florida make up 29.5% of the Citizen Voting Age Population and 69% are registered to vote. In 2008, POC made up 28.9% of the vote share in the general election although more than a third did not vote (37.7%). (census.gov) Imagine what could happen in 2012 if we energize and turn out every eligible voter?  Especially in places like Jacksonville, FL where there are over 200,000 “Key” POC voters and where voters were recently able to elect that city’s first African American mayor. 

Changes in congressional seats are at stake as well. We know that reapportionment gave Florida two congressional seats. So, there is no doubt that there will be a number of heated contests in which incumbents will face strong challengers. In these races pitting refurbished conservative candidates against surging progressive candidates, most of the focus will be on the fact that the Democrats need 25 seats to take back the house and the Republicans need 10 seats to win control of the Senate.

But there are other dynamics in these elections that may prove to be far more significant. Political experts often portray people of color as incidental as it relates to the broader sphere of American politics. Moreover, they seem to find it difficult to connect election results to evidence-based demographic trends. On one hand, they seem to recognize the fact that certain POC turnout levels will produce reliable results. On the other hand, they miss the fact that those turnout levels are connected to resources and political investment in POC communities.

The astonishing part is that most everyone acknowledges the unspoken high watermark. The fact is that, 4 years ago in South Carolina the POC community lit the torch that led a young African American candidate to the Presidency. But this didn’t just happen on a wing and a prayer; POC organizations began to connect the dots in early January. Moreover, these organizations did not follow the “vintage” campaign models for POC engagement.

In particular, PowerPAC made a significant investment toward engaging communities of color early in the Primary season. In fact, they were the first organization to hit South Carolina’s airwaves. They understood that “hope” and “change” wouldn’t have a chance if someone did not expand democracy to South Carolina’s POC community early. They knew that there were pockets of voters that could be the difference if given the chance. The results show that all the POC electorate needs is a systematic political structure powered by evidence based data. Note that he won the Primary with 54% of the vote.

The same holds true for other parts of the country. Young POC politicians are running for office in central Florida, northeast Texas, southwest Ohio, south central Arizona, Southern Nevada, and a number of places in California.

There is no doubt that these politicians are more than capable of running competent campaigns. The truth is, they are beneficiaries of the civil rights movement and gained valuable tools from our forebears. That’s probably what led them to throw their hat in the ring to begin with. Their interests represent our collective guiding beliefs. Once in office, POC politicians will have the opportunity to build coalitions and work towards creating a collective social, cultural, and economic apparatus for Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans.

But will their war chest benefit from the collective social economic advancements of the progressive community? Will they receive the support they need to defeat their opponents? If we care about diversity in political leadership, we shouldn’t just express our support through the vote. We should express our concern through monetary civic engagement. The fact is, if you invest political resources in a POC community, you will most likely have a positive return. That’s popping the CLUTCH.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac