People's Weekly World Newspaper, Oct 19, 2002
Interviews with labor, civil rights, women’s and peace organizations reveal a concerted nationwide campaign to maximize voter turnout in the Nov. 5 elections in an effort to wrest control of the House of Representatives from the Republican right wing and increase the one-vote Democratic margin in the Senate. A net gain of seven seats will give the Democrats control of the House.
The AFL-CIO, through its 10-point “Labor 2002” campaign, is engaged in a national effort to bring labor issues to the fore as Nov. 5 moves closer. The federation has assigned more than 1,000 full-time organizers to its campaign to elect “worker-friendly” majorities in both houses of Congress. And in five states – Maine, Texas, Nevada, California and Pennsylvania – union members are running for Congress.
Labor 2002 is not limited to national races. Central labor councils and state AFL-CIO federations are involved in campaigns for city councils, governorships and state legislature seats.
San Diego Labor Council Political Director Don Cohen told the World a “couple hundred” union volunteers are already “phonin’ and walkin’” to elect labor-friendly candidates to the city council. Maine AFL-CIO President Ed Gorham said Pine Tree State union members are working hard to elect UAW member Chelli Pingree to the U.S. Senate and Michael Michaud, a member of the Paper, Allied, Chemical and Energy union, to the House of Representatives.
Pingree and Michaud are two of seven union members making their first run for Congress. If they succeed, they will join Mike Honda and Adam Schiff, both Teachers’ union members, who won House seats in 2000.
If John Courage, Democratic candidate for Congress from Texas’ 21st CD, wins, there will be a third American Federation of Teachers member in the House.
“People are hurting financially and want government – and that means Congress – to deal with issues such as jobs, health care, prescription drugs and education,” Courage told the World. “They are concerned about a secure retirement and oppose any privatization or ‘modernization’ of Social Security.”
In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, 24 percent of respondents said the economy and jobs are the most important problems facing the country. Kim Kowalchik, press secretary for Ed O’Brien, a Steelworkers’ union member running for Congress, told the World economic issues are the main concern of voters in Pennsylvania’s 10th CD. “The issues are the same as they’ve always been – bread and butter issues that every working family faces: Like will I keep my job or, if I’m unemployed, will I get another one? People are worried about health care and retirement. These are our issues.”
The Rev. Willie Barrow of Rainbow/
PUSH used similar words in summing up the issues facing the Black community: “Jobs, education, health care and prescription drugs: these are our issues,” she said. “And underlying it all is the question of unemployment and the need for jobs, especially for our youth where one-third of all young people between 16 and 19 are unemployed.”
Rainbow/PUSH has established a phone bank at its Chicago headquarters and has 100 people working door to door. “We registered 5,000 people in just one day on one street corner,” Burrow said. “We’ve just got to win this election.”
Ricardo Castañon, a leader of the Texas-based Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), says registration among Latinos has increased in recent years. “This is especially true in Texas where the Latino-African American ‘dream team’ of Tony Sanchez for governor and Ron Kirk for the U.S. Senate heads the list of Democratic candidates,” he told the World.
He predicted the Latino community will deliver more than 800,000 votes for the Sanchez-Kirk ticket. “We have about two million Latinos in Texas eligible to vote. It’s not unrealistic to expect a 40 percent turnout on Nov. 5, when you consider what the election of Sanchez would mean to Latinos, not only in Texas but everywhere.”
Feminist Majority press secretary Emilie Karrick noted that while her organization is focusing on mobilizing the pro-choice constituency, “it only makes sense for us to be concerned about other family-related issues.”
Feminist Majority is devoting a lot of effort to college campuses with its “Get out her vote” campaign. “Young women must understand the importance of this election,” Karrick said. “Abortion rights are under attack. Equal pay is far from a reality. Environmental degradation continues. Civil rights are being eroded.”
In Florida, the gubernatorial race between Bill McBride and Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris’ run for Congress in the 13th CD are drawing national attention.
Rich Templin, communication director for the 500,000-member Florida AFL-CIO, says the governor’s race is a dead heat. “We’ve pulled out all stops in our campaign to defeat Bush,” he told the World. “We had thousands of volunteers on the street during the primary election and we’ll have even more thousands come Election Day.”
Templin said the 13th CD was “crafted” to make it virtually impossible for a Democrat to win – “It is Harris’ reward for her role in stealing the 2000 election.”
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Originally published by the People’s Weekly World