November 8, 2011: The 99 Percent Strike Back
Not only did we win. We won big. We won in friendly territory and difficult terrain. And the credit for our victories belongs firmly to the working men and women – union and non-union alike – who were fighting for their rights, their jobs, their values, and their future.
When John Kasich was sworn in as Ohio’s Governor at the beginning of this year, he didn’t immediately focus on job creation, as he had promised during the 2010 campaign. Instead, he launched a full scale attack on the rights of Ohio’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public workers. Senate Bill 5 was signed into law, restricting the collective bargaining rights of over 350,000 workers in Ohio.
What happened next was incredible. Working Ohioans joined petition drives all across the state to get a repeal of Senate Bill 5 on the November ballot. Among them were Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and moderates who were outraged over Kasich’s overreach and callousness toward the working people of the Buckeye State; the idea that public workers should serve as an ATM while corporations saw tax reductions offended them. Many police officers and firefighters who traditionally voted for Republicans joined the effort against SB 5; they knew that public safety workers, not politicians, know best about the staff and equipment they need to protect Ohio’s communities.
In June, 1.3 million signatures to repeal SB 5 were delivered to the Secretary of State in Columbus. It became Issue 2 on the ballot.
John Kasich’s allies, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, and a host of other shadowy out-of-state groups, poured millions into Ohio to protect Senate Bill 5. They tried every dirty trick in the book. But in the end, Issue 2 was defeated by a massive 21 point margin. In fact, more people voted to repeal Senate Bill 5 than to elect Governor Kasich. We’ll have more on what this Ohio victory means later today.
In June, Maine Governor Paul LePage signed LD 1376, which banned the practice of registering to vote on Election Day. Same-day registration had been in place in Maine for 38 years without any problems, but backers claimed it would “cut down on election day mistakes,” and “cuts down on voter fraud.” Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster was less subtle, saying same-day registration allowed Democrats to “intentionally steal elections.” Did Webster fail to notice Maine’s two Republican U.S. Senators and Republican Governor? This was just another attack in the nationwide war on voting rights, which has spread to Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and many other states.
Luckily a collection of organizations including the Maine People’s Alliance and Working America formed Protect Maine Votes, and gathered 70,000 signatures to restore same-day registration. Question 1 on yesterday’s ballot passed by a wide margin, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. With last nights victory, the people of Maine have started the fight back against the war on voting.
In Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, Democrat Rich Fitzgerald defeated Republican D. Raja to become the next County Executive. The election was not close – Fitz was up 25 percentage points when they called it.
Why does this matter? County Executives often become candidates for statewide office. The Democratic candidate for governor in 2010, Dan Onorato, was Allegheny County Executive. In Wisconsin, a certain Mr. Scott Walker held the seat of Milwaukee County Executive from which he launched his gubernatorial campaign.
It’s what Chris Savage calls “the little recall that could.” Of all the races last night, it was the recall of anti-teacher Michigan Rep. Paul Scott that faced the steepest climb.
Paul Scott is the kind of politician we all wish we could remove from office: Ambitious, ideological, and a outspoken opponent of his state’s teachers and teachers’ union. His attacks on education as the Chair the House Education Committee lead to a grassroots campaign to unseat him. Of the 47 attempts to recall Michigan legislators this year, only Paul Scott’s succeeded.
The story then has a lot of legal twists and turns. But for us, the most amazing part of this story happened last night, when the recall passed by 197 votes out of 24,371 cast. Talk about “every vote matters!”
Iowa has a Republican Governor and a rabidly conservative House. The lower chamber in Iowa has passed measures attacking the state healthcare system, making huge cuts in education, and restrictions in collective bargaining rights.
The only reason Iowa hasn’t become the next Wisconsin or Ohio is because of the Democratic-controlled State Senate, where they have a margin of one. Last night, that majority was preserved when Democrat Liz Mathis won a special election for the decisive Senate seat with 56 percent of the vote, despite some really gross tactics on the part of her opponents.
State Senate President Russell Pearce was known as a key mover and shaker behind Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070. He was also an opponent of workers’ rights, once “joking” that he wanted to throw union protestors in desert tent prisons. We didn’t find that joke very funny, and neither did the people of Arizona. By a seven point margin, voters removed Pearce from office and replaced him with moderate Republican Jerry Lewis.