They weren’t headline-grabbing wins, but on Nov. 3, IBEW candidates quietly racked up an impressive range of victories in local and state-level elections all over the country.
From Indiana to Pennsylvania, New Jersey to Mississippi, IBEW members and union-backed candidates took back city councils, mayor’s offices, courts and legislative seats, paving the way for future success at all levels of government.
The victories were most significant in New Jersey, where Asbury Park Local 400 member Eric Houghtaling and his running mate Joann Downey scored a shocking upset victory in Assembly District 11, becoming the first Democrats to win the seats in more than 20 years. Houghtaling was joined by 46 other union member victors across all levels of New Jersey government on Election Day, a record for labor in the state.
“These victories underline the importance of our members running for office at every level,” IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. “From former business representative Donald Norcross in the Democratic leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives to the members we have on school boards and city councils across the country, no one fights harder for working people than members of our very own union.”
(See “A Call to Serve: IBEW’s Members in Public Office,” “Electrical Worker”, June 2015)
And our elected members shared their Election Day success with labor allies all over the country.
In Pennsylvania, labor scored an important victory when Democrats won all three open seats on the state Supreme Court, giving them a 5-2 advantage and providing a more progressive voice when the Keystone State redraws its legislative boundaries following the 2020 census.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court administrative judge Kevin Dougherty, the brother of Local 98 Business Manager John Dougherty, received more than a million votes, the most of any of the seven candidates.
“We did have an impact,” said IBEW Pennsylvania Political Director Mike Welsh. “Our candidate was the highest vote getter and he was the one getting attacked with the most negative ads. That had to speak something about our efforts.”
Christine Donohue and David Wecht, two Pennsylvania Appeals Court judges, were the other Democrats elected. The newly-elected justices will serve 10-year terms.
Pennsylvania’s five-member redistricting committee has four members appointed by the state legislature, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, with the fifth decisive vote appointed by the Supreme Court, which was controlled by Republicans following the last census in 2010.
That allowed Republicans to draw up legislative boundaries to their advantage and it shows. Despite nearly 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania, the GOP currently hold significant advantages in the state House, the state Senate and in the U.S. House delegation.
Welsh and other labor leaders also expect the result to make it less likely the Pennsylvania legislature will pursue right-to-work legislation in the future.
In Indiana, an incredible four members of Indianapolis Local 481 were elected to city councils, including David Ray, who unseated an incumbent to deliver the freshly-elected Democratic mayor a slim majority on the Indianapolis City-County Council. Members Jeff Wright, Brian Hatfield and Trent Wisener each prevailed in their own races in nearby towns as well, making it a banner night for Local 481.
Other important victories this Election Day included successful ballot initiatives in Ohio, Maine and Seattle and a big win for the labor-friendly attorney general, Jim Hood, in Mississippi – the only Democrat to win statewide office there this year.
Still to be decided this month is the important gubernatorial runoff in Louisiana between IBEW-endorsed John Bel Edwards and Republican Sen. David Vitter. That election is set for Nov. 21.
(See: IBEW International Secretary-Treasurer: “Run, IBEW Members, Run,” “Electrical Worker,” June 2015)
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr used Theresa Thompson.