Midterm elections used to be mostly unremarkable events that revolved around local issues for the most part. Rarely did these contests rise to a national level. A truism has been that the political party of the incumbent president tended to lose congressional seats due to public weariness of that party’s missteps.
All that changed in 2010 when the Tea Party swept the midterm elections, winning 63 House seats and six Senate seats. We began using the phrase “wave election,” referring to a national tidal wave that swept the electorate.
Will this year’s midterms fit the traditional model of elections based on 100 local issues? Or will they resemble a tidal wave like the one that swept right-wing Republicans into office in 2010, only this time sweeping Democrats into office?
We’ll know in a few days.
The New York State primaries have resulted in a good set of candidates with polls showing they have a good chance of electoral success if we bring out the vote. The focus of the UFT and NYSUT, our state affiliate, is to flip political control of the state Senate from red to blue to advance the union’s legislative agenda.
Here’s what the Retired Teachers Chapter, UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s daytime union, has been doing to win this crucial midterm election. Conscious of our national nightmare and all the craziness emanating from Washington, D.C., and the White House, we are playing an enhanced political role to affect the outcome. Serious checks and balances are urgently needed to put the brakes on the anti-labor, anti-progressive forces that dominate the presidency and control Congress and the Supreme Court. Democratic activists are working to flip congressional seats from red to blue all over the country. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Florida and a few other states offer opportunities to win back the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate, but nothing is certain.
The political scene is pretty quiet here in New York. The UFT’s main focus in this election cycle has been New Jersey. Why? First, it’s on our doorstep. We have 3,411 in-service and 3,389 retiree members living in the Garden State for a total of 6,785 voters. Those numbers make us perhaps the largest local in the state. Add them to our AFT educators and health service professionals, and our AFL-CIO brothers and sisters, and we have powerful potential.
Motivating UFT Jerseyites is a natural for campaigning, phone banking, social media activities and voter turnout. We care about our hometowns as well as the nation as a whole. So we’ve participated in bus trips over the last two weekends to do door-to-door canvassing in targeted New Jersey congressional districts as well as to the perimeter areas around Philadelphia that have gone either red or blue in recent elections. The UFT purpose: get the message out about issues that affect us and our labor allies.
Please remember that the UFT has tried to maintain relationships with both political parties where possible but the current national nightmare has created lines of such stark extremes that bipartisanship is difficult.
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez is in a tough re-election campaign following a recent court controversy. For the sake of regaining the Senate, his re-election is important to us.
There are three New Jersey congressional districts that have the possibility of being flipped.
CD #03 (Ocean County: Toms River west to Pennsylvania) — Democrat Andy Kim is supported by labor over incumbent Republican Tom MacArthur. Polls have shown it to be a toss-up, with Kim campaigning for recognition in a state where voters often make late decisions. There are 188 UFTers there.
CD #07 (Somerset County: Cranford west to Pennsylvania) — Democrat Tom Malinowski is labor’s candidate against incumbent Republican Leonard Lance. A Monmouth poll gives Malinowski an edge. There are 328 UFTers there.
CD #11 (Morris County: Madison, Dover areas) — Democrat Mikie Sherrill has labor’s endorsement against Republican Jay Webber in this open, traditionally Republican district that is now leaning Democratic. Sherrill is a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor. There are 414 UFTers there.
The number of UFT members in each of these districts may not seem huge, but getting them out to vote will have an impact beyond their numbers. As campaigners, we are articulate and determined. Our voices carry great weight. And we persist in fighting the good fight. We will soon know whether we have been able to regain our footing in turning around the national nightmare.