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|NUMBER 271||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||AUGUST 2008|
|NEA Increases Political Influence in 2008 Election|
The NEA recently opened a Campaigns and Elections division devoted entirely to election politics. Karen White, formerly the political director of EMILY's List, heads the new division. EMILY's List is a powerful political group that supports and helps to elect pro-choice Democratic women.
The Campaigns and Elections division has already seen some notable successes. In Kentucky last year, the NEA helped Democrat Steve Beshear to defeat the incumbent governor, Ernie Fletcher. 83% of Kentucky's NEA members went to the polls to vote for Beshear.
Outgoing NEA President Reg Weaver told The Hill (2-26-08) that Karen White has helped the union to step up the sophistication of its political efforts.
For example, White introduced the NEA to microtargeting, the strategy of identifying voter subgroups based on demographics or preferences, and then crafting political messages to reach each subgroup.
This year, the NEA has in its crosshairs nine Senate races and between 25 and 40 House races, as well as several gubernatorial contests and of course the presidential race. "We plan to be very aggressive," said Weaver. Although not all of the union's favored candidates are Democrats, according to Weaver, he promised hard-hitting contrast campaigns against John McCain in battleground states.
NEA polling in such states has shown that the No Child Left Behind Act can draw many voters to support NEA-endorsed candidates. "That sucker has galvanized our members," said Weaver. 76% of Ohio Education Association teachers, for example, said they were "strongly against" NCLB.
Discussion of NCLB at the NEA annual meeting confirmed that poll. Whenever speakers criticized the law, the audience erupted in cheers.