This is wonderful:
The New West Project, headquartered in Denver, will conduct research and develop strategies to secure and exploit recent Democratic gains in the Western states, party sources said.
At least four Western governors - Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Bill Ritter, Colorado's governor-elect - are expected to lead the group's advisory council, the sources said. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado and other members of Congress will provide "strategic guidance."
Reid confirmed the creation of the new organization, which he said would "build upon the leadership of people such as governors Napolitano, Richardson and Schweitzer" and "work to focus attention on the West."
This is a high level group. Consider the Western Strategy in play, my friends. It is wonderful to see this sort of institutional arrangement that will only benefit our local, state and national candidates long term. It looks like part think tank, part strategy firm, part communications development - all aspects that will be welcome by the plethora of candidates that will be running these next few cycles to take advantage of our our new promise out here in the west.
The best part of the article? The quote from an unnamed "Western Democrat":
As an example of what the new organization may do, the Western Democrat said that political professionals would analyze such questions as "the difference between first- and second-generation Hispanic voters, ... what motivates them and how we communicate with them," as well as "why a recent transplant from California, who has voted Republican all her life, is now voting for Democrats."
Good question, "Western Democrat" - it just leaves me amazed to see our namesake invoked so strikingly in an article. Methinks the author of the article, John Aloysius Farrell , might just be an reader of our humble site. If so, thanks for the article John - we'll be watching for you in the future.
It's great to have a new project designed for this express purpose and examining the multitude of new questions that are arising from the new political climate in the West. Now, if any of those people involved in the project are paying attention it would behoove them greatly to include netroots and blog outreach as an element of the project. You see, since major political focus has been absent from the West for awhile the netroots and blogosphere have been proliferating and recruiting top candidates all over the place. It would be an essential element of any plan that you should put together.
Here's the The New West Project!
Landon Mascareñaz | December 6, 2006 | Comment on This Post (0 so far)
Joaquin over at The Plaza (Bill Richardson's campaign blog) showcases some new economic incentives the Governor is proposing. The main focus is tax cuts for working families, veterans and people that invest in New Mexico. Some highlights (I used ellipsis to designate snipping, check the post to read the whole package):
WORKING FAMILIES Working Families Tax Credit - the centerpiece of the Governor's tax-cut package, which is modeled after the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. This tax credit will reward work, and help working families--who earn between $11,000 and $36,000. As many as 139,000 taxpayers will benefit by an average of $180 per return...
MILITARY AND MILITARY RETIREES...
Tax Cuts for active-duty military - exempting military pay from state income taxes, which means an average of $1,340 in tax benefit to 7,000 New Mexicans...
Gross Receipts Tax Deduction for Hospitals - Most of the hospitals affected operate in small, rural areas and on the front lines when it comes to caring for those most in need. This tax cut will allow more money that can be invested in local jobs, technology and direct patient care.
Gross Receipts Tax Relief for Mutual Funds - an incentive for investment management firms to bring well-paying financial services jobs to New Mexico.
Angel Investment Credit - an incentive for New Mexicans who invest in high-tech, start-up companies.
Now I know that tax cuts aren't the natural red meat for Democrats around the country. But isn't that the point? In Chain Reaction: The impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics (Norton, 1991), the authors argue that
The tax revolt was a major turning point in American politics. It provided new muscle and new logic to the formation of a conservative coalition opposed to the liberal welfare state. The division of the electorate along lines of taxpayes versus tax recipients dovetailed with racial divisions...The tax revolt provided conservatism with a powerful internal coherance, shaping an anti-government ethic, and firmly establishing new grounds for the disaffection of white working- and middle-class voters from their traditional Democratic roots.
It is wonderful to see Democratic politicians such as Richardson using the language of taxation to advance a progressive and electorally successful agenda. Since working families have a higher marginal propensity to consume, the state of New Mexico will even see greater rewards from this system. Too often in national or local politics, conservative Republicans use the language of the tax revolt to mobilize white working or middle class, decades after the true revolt occurred. That is because the language is power (your money, your freedom) and Democrats have often neglected to speak the language effectively.
I look forward to the day where national Democratic politicians challenge the GOP along these lines in a highly publicized way and ask them to come out against tax cuts for working families and veterans while supporting those for millionaires.
Landon Mascareñaz | October 18, 2006 | Comment on This Post (1 so far)
ActBlue, one of the best ideas since there have been good ideas, is expanding down to statewide and state legislative races. The only thing they need is help navigating through 50 different campaign finance systems. They've already figured out Virginia, and good for them for not picking a Big Blue East state first.
But, it would be safe to assume that their next obvious choice would be something like New York or Massachusetts, unless we convince them otherwise. The West needs ActBlue more than any other region. ActBlue has already helped insurgent candidates (Paul Hackett) and there isn't a region were insurgents can do more in a short period of time than in the West.
From their post on MyDD:
We're starting to navigate the campaign finance landscape in each state, and we've got a fantastic group of volunteers helping us gather information on candidates across the country. (We could always use more, by the way — check out our directory of state candidates and let us know who we're missing.)
The most challenging part is the legal side of getting our fundraising operations going -- the staff time and lawyers, Lawyers, LAWYERS, LAWYERS required to do this right are going to cost on average $10,000 per state, at least for the first set of states we take on.
So we're asking: can you help make it happen?
We're going to take an approach just like Howard Dean's 50-state strategy: with the help of this discussion we'll choose a small set of states to start with. If the fundraising there goes well, we'll add more!
Please chime in below with your thoughts on priority states, and thanks for all you do to make the Democratic difference.
I'd be remiss not to mention this: just like we have a directory of candidates, we also have a directory of our fundraising drives for all the states. So if you're hankering to support a state RIGHT NOW, you can do so here.
Swing State Project: ActBlue Expanding to State Races
Washblog: Help bring ActBlue to Washington State
The question has been raised about why Democrat governors are popular in Red States. Here is one possible answer.
Republicans have positioned themselves as the low tax party. The advantage is obvious: people would prefer not to pay taxes. But there is a flip side. Unless you can run an infinite deficit, low taxes mean small, perhaps inadequate public services. Americans are willing to pay taxes if they believe they will receive commensurate benefits. Roads, schools, and social security are examples of programs they are willing to pay for. Most Americans don’t want the public sector to shrink to zero, yet the GOP pushes a “starve the beast” strategy. This strategy leads to massive deficits at the federal level. In the short run, voters don’t immediately feel the downside of that deficit. At the local level, however, starving the beast very quickly means cutting schools programs, not fixing roads, not removing the snow or the garbage, weakening police and fire protection, etc. If you are suspicious of the distant federal government, but still want good government services, a Democrat mayor or governor may be your best option.
How does this play out locally? Let us look at San Diego. In principle, San Diego city government is non-partisan, but in practice the city has favored the Republican model of low taxes, also unfortunately coupled with giveaways to special interests. The result is a crumbling infrastructure. In the disastrous 2003 Cedar fire, San Diego had no helicopters to help stop the blaze. After this year's record rainfall, San Diego lacked the money to repair potholes. The city is now flirting with bankruptcy, and the mayor resigned. So when Republican Steve Francis ran in the mayoral election with a no new taxes pledge, he did not overwhelm the local electorate. He finished third and out of the November runoff.
Leo Brown | July 27, 2005 | Comment on This Post (2 so far)
San Diego is a Purple City in a Red County in a Blue State.
San Diego, “America’s Finest City,” is in serious trouble, plagued by financial woes and a city hall scandal.
The mayoral election is officially non-partisan, but Donna Frye, the candidate who won the most votes yesterday, is a Democrat, and her top two competitors were Republicans.
The number three finisher, Steve Francis, used the GOP playbook, and it wasn’t enough. He is a millionaire businessman. He poured a lot of money into the campaign. He hired consultants. He used negative ads. He played the religious card. He promised no new taxes. He came in third.
Donna Frye needs to appeal to enough moderate Republicans to win a majority in November. Can she do it? Stay tuned.
The Rocky Mountain News takes a new look at the wins by the Brothers Salazar in Colorado last November and finds something interesting. (Thanks to Coyote Gulch). In a state where only 10 percent of the voters are Hispanics (and less so for John Salazar, winning in a more white-bread 3rd District) they won by not emphasizing race.
"John Salazar succeeded because he connected with the rural values of his district - strong family bonds, deep faith, hard work - and he never turned his back on his farm roots," said Jim Merlino, the congressman's former campaign manager.
"For Ken's campaign, we worked hard to put together an urban-suburban-rural coalition," said Jim Carpenter, Ken Salazar's former campaign manager. "In politics, you go where the numbers are. While Colorado has seen a significant increase in Latino voters, and the Latino vote is a very important piece of the pie, they still represent about 10 percent of the voter population."
As with Villaraigosa, Ken Salazar didn't play up or downplay his Hispanic background, "it was just there," said Rodolfo de la Garza, a political scientist at Columbia University.
This sounds very close to what Gov. Bill Richardson is already trying to do by not casting himself as the Hispanic presidential candidate, rather as a post-Clinton centrist, with his joke, "The truth is, you get used to it with a name like Richardson."
This also parallels the advice that Jorge Ramos gives in the Latino Wave, that is not good enough for politicians to pander to Hispanic voters by acting one way in front of them (the old Mariachi drop by) and another way in front of non-Hispanic voters. The way to win Hispanic votes is to talk about the things that concern them most, not pander:
Kerry and Bush have specifically addressed various issues affecting Hispanic voters: Jobs, education, drop out rate, health insurance, Cuba, immigration… This is a noticeable improvement over four years ago when, rather than speaking about specific issues relevant to Hispanics, the candidates simply brought out the Mariachis and served tacos with sour cream.
Emmett O'Connell | May 30, 2005 | Comment on This Post (2 so far)
This is bordering on old news, but Antonio Villaraigosa was elected Mayor of LA, the first Hispanic elected there in modern political history. And, this means something for Democrats in the West, I'm just not totally sure what.
Suffice to say, when I break the West down into its three politcal regions (based on the MassInc maps), we spend a lot of time talking about Sagebrush, not so much on Upper Coasts because we might consider it safe territory, but we nearly never mention El Norte.
Villaraigosa's election (ironically soon after I finished reading "The Latino Wave") got me thinking about El Norte again, and this is something we really need to start talking about. I know why I haven't talked about it so much, knowing that I might come off sounding like a well meaning, white liberal, who just wants to say the right thing. But, that is not a good enough reason not to at least inquire.
So, what does Villaraigosa mean?
Will Arnold have a harder time winning reelection, especially given his rather interesting comments on the Minutemen recently? From Bob's Blog:
Last week in a phone call to a radio station, Schwarzenegger told the radio audience: "I think they’ve [Arizona Minuteman Project] done a terrific job."
Bush Jr. has called the Minutemen vigilantes. But Schwarzenegger disagrees and has denounced the job that Bush Jr. has done at the border. Geez Arnold, you went to Ohio last October for Bush Jr. and just half a year later you’re "dissing" him?
Law enforcement has denounced the Minuteman Project because these vigilantes are roaming the desert with "six guns" on their hips and six-packs in their R.V.’s
Bring together a bunch of "angry" men, mix in guns and alcohol and you know at some point there will be a tragic accident.
Schwarzenegger’s comments will only encourage more people, including some crackpots, to head to the Mexican border with guns.
What does this mean for Bill Richardson, who actually lent some troops (through the New Mexico Dems) to Villaraigosa during the campaign. Will Richardson (who is now joined by Villaraigosa as the two most prominent Hispanic politicians in the country) have an easier time with a possible California primary now that Villaraigosa has shown his stuff?
Anyway, this is where I'm at. We just can't forget the West doesn't just mean Brian Schweitzer, though Brian is super cool.
Emmett O'Connell | May 22, 2005 | Comment on This Post (9 so far)
Everywhere we turn, we hear folks telling us that the Mayor of Denver, the inimitable John Hickenlooper, is just not interested in being Governor of Colorado. Friends of his keep saying, "he's just so damn happy being mayor."
And, now this, from the Mayor himself:
Ward Lucas: Ok, no political double talk here, are you going to run for governor?
Hickenlooper: Uhhh, I don't think so. I mean, to be quite honest, I can't imagine a better job than being mayor. I haven't given it a second thought, I mean, quite honestly.
Ward Lucas: You got no further political aspirations?
Hickenlooper: No [You know?], what better political aspiration can you have than to work as mayor in one of the greatest cities in the universe.
The Colorado Democratic Party, the cool folks that every Dem wants to be since the election of the Salazar brothers, changed gears when they elected Pat Waak, replacing Chris Gates. Opinions differ on the reason for this change, but it can be seen as changing quarterbacks after a surprising win, which isn't exactly a good strategy.
Makesmeralph is really down on this point of view, calling the really close vote, saying: "The GOP has got to be a strong, strong favorite to win the Governor's race, especially now that Pat Waak is Democratic Chair. Colorado has a GOP bias, and Pat Waak is taking the Democratic Party in the wrong direction."
Luis is not at all depressed about the new chair:
I'm not worried about Gates' loss for the same reason I didn't think it would have been so horrible if Howard Dean didn't win the national party chair election. It's not as if Dean (or Simon Rosenberg) was going to turn Republican or stop working to build the party if he didn't win the chair race, and I doubt we'll see any drop off in commitment to the Democratic Party from Gates losing, either. And if Waak winning makes some Democrats who currently feel excluded have a sense of ownership of the party, it could turn into a net plus by helping unify the party.
Mentioning Dean, Luis implies maybe a third way to look at Chairperson Waak, the close election indicated that there were a lot of strong feelings on both sides of the chair race. This is good, because after a breakout election, which the Salazaars seemed to be, the last thing you want to do is just sit on your hands. You want your party to get excited.
And, it seems they got so damned excited that they elected a new chair. Waak's election could be the same sort of grass roots excitement that gassed Dean's presidential campaign for so long and that he seems to be pumping into the national party.
One of the few things that unite politicians across Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho is defending the Bonneville Power Administration. And, now there is a fight brewing between our states' delegations and DC Republicans over privatizing the good old BPA.
The Bush Administration sees asking Northwest ratepayers to act like BPA is a private utility, not a public trust, as an easy way to get more money into the federal coffers. This is one of those "good government" fights that Western Democrats can pick up and used against "no government" Republicans.
Ironically, the utilities that depend on BPA power the most are small, rural public utilities. The only reason these utilities exist is that progressives in rural counties (at least in Washington) stood up and created them.
President George W. Bush's fiscal year 2006 budget, sent to Congress Monday, would, if enacted, be costly to rural Montanans because of provisions affecting wholesale power rates and farm subsidies.
"It would increase our rates 35 to 40 percent," said Terry Holzer, general manager of Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative, which gets electrical power from the Bonneville and Western Area power administrations. "It would double the price of our wholesale power at a minimum."
And, oh yes, as a final point of irony: Haven't private utilities treated the Northwest well so far?
The Aug. 4, 2000, conversation between Enron trader Tim Belden and Rick Shapiro, an Enron executive, began with Belden chuckling as he noted that it was hot in California, "and they don't have enough power. And they kill fish in the Northwest so that people in California can go enjoy themselves at a baseball game."
Shapiro responded, "And then what are we doing? Are we exporting some of the 'fish-kill power' out of California?"
"We are exporting some power from California to the Southwest," said Belden, former head of trading in Enron's Portland office.