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AFT Political Action Leads to Down-Ballot Success

The landmark election that brought Barack Obama to the White House and saw Democrats expand their control in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate also netted victories for many down-ballot candidates and ballot positions endorsed by the AFT and its affiliates.

Union political action helped re-elect Gov. Christine Gregoire in Washington state and contributed to Democratic challenger Jay Nixon's victory in the Missouri gubernatorial race. The Missouri victory should help slow a push for private school vouchers and legislation attacking funding for public services in the state. In North Carolina, Democrat Bev Perdue was elected governor with the help of the AFT, and AFT affiliates helped with the re-election of Gov. Bob Manchin in West Virginia and Gov. John Lynch in New Hampshire.

In the state legislative races, Democrats won the majority in the Delaware House of Representatives, the Ohio House of Representatives and the Wisconsin State Assembly. Democrats also took control of the Senate chambers in Nevada and New York, and moved into a tie in the Alaska Senate. Democrats also made gains in chambers that were extremely competitive this year—the Indiana, Michigan and Oregon lower chambers, in particular. The final tally shows that Democrats made gains in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Key ballot initiatives also came up in the 2008 vote. AFT political action helped narrowly defeat a "paycheck deception" measure in Oregon. The AFT also helped turn down Oregon measures limiting English as a second language (ESL) instruction and mandating the use of merit pay for teachers. In Colorado, the union helped defeat a right-to-work measure and a ban on dues deduction for public employees, although an AFT-opposed ban on political activity by public employee unions did win passage. Anti-tax initiatives in Massachusetts, North Dakota and Oregon were rejected with the help of AFT political action. Efforts to call state constitutional conventions in Connecticut and Illinois were defeated with the help of AFT affiliates; and in Washington, a transportation initiative that AFT-WA opposed was defeated. Many of these successful efforts by the national union and its affiliates were boosted by financial support from the AFT Solidarity Fund.

November 13, 2008