Not to belabor the obvious, but a bad day for the Democrats is a bad day for the National Education Association’s political operations. NEA spent money on safe incumbents, so its overall record for 2010 won’t seem so bad, but in the candidate races all across the country where the union was heavily involved, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives, it got shellacked.
Let’s begin with NEA’s targeted Congressional races, as reported by The Atlantic and Mother Jones. The Senate seems to be where the union did best, assuming Colorado and Washington remain Democratic. NEA also devoted significant resources to Harry Reid. On the other hand, NEA lost in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
The House was another matter.
AZ-05: NEA loss
CO-03: NEA loss
FL-22: NEA loss
IL-17: NEA loss
NY-01: NEA win
NC-08: NEA win
OH-13: NEA win
PA-08: NEA loss
VA-05: NEA loss
TX-23: NEA loss
At the state level, key governorships and legislatures flipped to the GOP, former Arizona Education Association President Penny Kotterman was defeated in her bid to become state superintendent of public instruction, and many of the ballot initiatives on which NEA spent the most money went down to defeat.
In Massachusetts, the union helped defeat Question 3, which would have slashed the sales tax, and managed one important win in California (more on that in a minute), but lost big on an education funding initiative in Oklahoma, failed to pass a state income tax in Washington, and flushed away more than $10 million on a losing effort to increase revenue from the corporate business tax in California. The union also could not stop an Arizona initiative that requires secret ballots for union representation elections, effectively outlawing card check in the state.
In the Golden State we once again proved we live on an entirely different planet. The Wall Street Journal has already opined on the contrarian nature of the California vote. Not only did Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer win handily, but it is likely that every statewide office will be held by a Democrat, and Democrats may also have increased their already lofty numbers in the legislature.
California voters seemed to call for fiscal responsibility, passing the union-opposed Props 22 and 26. The former prohibits the state from taking local funds to help balance the budget, and the latter requires a two-thirds vote for many fees that now require only a majority vote to increase. This removed two practices the legislature routinely uses to raise revenues.
At the same time, however, the voters approved the union-backed Prop 25, which eliminates the two-thirds supermajority to pass a state budget. This entirely erases the GOP as a factor on budget issues, and certainly does not signal a move toward austerity measures in a state awash in debt and bloated government.
It’s a political cliché that what begins in California soon spreads to the rest of country. For the next two years, at least, the opposite will be true. We will see things in California that will be seen nowhere else.
Nationally, NEA’s actions will be interesting to watch. After the 1994 mid-terms, the union hooked up with the Republican Main Street Partnership in an effort to make some GOP friends. It’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to attempt something similar next year.