Educators Score Big Wins at the Ballot Box
Tag edd houck, heather losurdo, Iowa, kevin hill, liz mathis, Maine, maine question 1, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Ohio Senate Bill 5, paul scott, SB5, school board, tea party, Virginia, voter registration, voter suppression, Wake County
by Felix Perez/photo above courtesy of Staci Maiers and the Ohio Education Association
All eyes were on Ohio Tuesday, November 8, as Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike delivered a stinging rebuke of the nation’s first-ever statewide voter referendum on the right of public employees to collectively bargain.
While educators and other workers celebrated the historic news from Ohio, other noteworthy races and issues were decided at the ballot box as well.
In Iowa, members of Iowa State Education Association organized and played a leading role in electing Liz Mathis and preserving narrow control over the state senate. With ideologically driven Republicans in control of the statehouse and the governor’s mansion, pro-public education advocates rely on the state senate to stop extreme legislation. Mathis won 56% of the special election vote. Her Tea Party opponent drew significant out-of-state funding, communications and support.
In Michigan, Paul Scott, chairman of the state’s House Education Committee, lost his closely watched recall election. Representative Scott was targeted by members of the Michigan Education Association and their allies for his attacks against educators, for cutting money from schools and taxing senior pensions while supporting a $1.8 billion tax cut for corporations. Under one of Scott’s bills, it would be illegal for a union representative to “solicit or encourage” any public employee to strike or to “conspire” to cause a strike, even if he or she did not actually engage in a work stoppage. Scott, who lost by 232 votes, is the first legislator recalled in Michigan since 1983.
Maine Education Association members partnered with other Maine citizens to support a ballot initiative that struck down a Republican-passed bill to repeal Election Day voter registration. Question 1, which passed with 61% of the vote, was put on the ballot after thousands of MEA members and other progressive volunteers collected more than 50,000 signatures to call a citizen’s veto on legislation passed by the Republican-controlled statehouse. Election day registration has produced a major boost in voter turnout in Maine since it was enacted in 1973, while just two cases of voter fraud have occurred over the past 20 years.
In Wake County, NC, progressive voters led by the North Carolina Association of Educators needed to win five of five districts to take school board control away from Tea Party candidates. NCAE-backed candidates won four seats in October, barely missing an outright win for the fifth seat. Yesterday’s runoff between incumbent Democrat Kevin Hill and Republican challenger Heather Losurdo marked a turning point in a high-profile, two-year battle over governance of the state’s largest school system. Hill won 52% of the vote.
Finally, control of the Virginia state Senate will likely be decided in a recount. State Senator Edd Houck, chair of the chamber’s Education Committee, is down by 86 votes. If anti-public education Republicans win the seat, the chamber will be tied, 20-20, giving the tie-breaking vote to the Republican lieutenant governor. Virginia Education Association members came out in full force for Houck, because without control of the Senate, the state and VEA are likely to face a barrage of challenges from anti-worker extremists, including major changes to the pension system and anti-union legislation. If Republicans win complete control of the General Assembly, it will mark only the second time since the Civil War that the party has simultaneously held the governor’s mansion, House and Senate in Virginia. Update: Sen Houck has conceded the election and will not be pursuing a recount.
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