10/27/2014

The Grand Rapids Press, which rarely endorses Democrats, backs Winnie Brinks

The Grand Rapids Press hardly ever endorses Democrats in competitive races. When they do back a Democrat, it's usually because the race is settled (Senator Levin got the Press's backing in 2002 and 2008, as have state lawmakers like Brandon Dillon and Michael Sak, who have represented the city's more Democratic district).

How Republican have the Press's endorsements been over the years? Even Pete Hoekstra and Mike Bouchard got the Press's nod in their landslide losses to Senator Stabenow.

Before now, I can only recall one other Democrat who received the Press's endorsement in a competitive race: Jocelyn Benson in 2010.

Winnie Brinks just became the second.

But Dejonge has failed to convincingly argue why voters should not send Brinks back to Lansing for a second term. Her political experience is limited to a two-year stint as Grand Rapids city comptroller. Dejonge quit that post in late 2012 after voters rejected her ballot proposal to make the position appointed instead of elected.

Brinks has shown growth as a legislator. She has focused on policy issues that are important to Grand Rapids, including road fixes, education and health care. She boasts the unanimous support of the Grand Rapids Public School Board and is endorsed by three city commissioners and Mayor George Heartwell.
Brinks's seat was expected to be a top target of Republicans; now, their odds of winning the 76th are diminishing, even as they're forced to defend seats they thought were safe.

10/18/2014

Al-Jazeera picks up Land's foibles

...along with her party's general inability to improve their standing among women:

But there’s some evidence that the Democrats’ strategy is working and the Republicans’ isn’t. Some experts say the Land ad provides an example of why: When Democrats have attacked Republicans for their position on controversial issues, Republicans have countered mostly through image: putting women at the front of the party but not providing concrete evidence that Democrats’ claims are wrong. “She had that one ad and then didn’t follow up trying to appeal to women voters,” said Susan Demas, a writer and political analyst for the website Inside Michigan Politics. “But her record on equal pay and abortion rights is well known in Michigan, and that doesn’t resonate well with women.”
The article goes on to discuss, among other things, the "Say Yes to the Dress" ads, which an MSU student said had offended her:
“It offended me that she’s trying to sell herself as a candidate for women but she didn’t talk about any kind of policy,” Havern said. “She’s trying to appeal to women, but I don’t know what her stances are.”
I guess I kind of expected the Party of Sarah Palin to do better among women. Not!

9/24/2014

Political communications mistakes I've seen TODAY ALONE (w/some solutions)

1. A statewide organization omitting a certain candidate from a lit piece - a candidate whose support largely comes from a constituency Democrats need.
2. A reminder to sign up to vote early - in Florida. I don't live in Florida, I was only there once, and there's no evidence on my Facebook that I even did go there (until this post).
3. A campaign email in which the Sender field was different from the person whose name was at the bottom.
SOLUTIONS:
1. Even with limited space on your lit, *be strategic* in who you include or exclude.
2. *Target* your Facebook ads to those who are able to do what you ask them. Can't vote in Florida if I don't live there!
3. Have someone - or two or three people - *proofread* your communications before they go out. At previous employers, we had a VERY thorough process for proofreading emails.
Just 41 days left, people. COME ON!!!

9/19/2014

Young, Catholic, and reverent of the forgotten

Folks who attack religion as some sort of problem that we'd be better off without... and folks who make broad swipes at millennials... I see you, and I raise you this:
Young people of faith who want to make sure every deceased person is fittingly remembered.

For the past 12 years, students in the pallbearer ministry at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland have attended funerals for the forgotten, walking with those who have no one else to accompany them to their final resting place. Since the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearer Ministry was founded in 2002, more than 400 juniors and seniors have served as casket bearers at local funerals for deceased who were homeless, financially insecure or simply didn’t have anyone to give them a dignified burial.

“The mission of the pallbearer ministry is to try and practice the works of mercy, to bring our faith to the streets of Cleveland,” said Jim Skerl, a theology teacher at Saint Ignatius High and the founder of the ministry.

It’s the largest student organization at the school, and members have been present at about 1,450 funerals. “Each funeral is different, which is an interesting reminder that each person we carry is an individual,” said Skerl.

7/30/2014

Bernstein launches Supreme Court campaign with stellar branding

Richard Bernstein announced this morning that he's running for Michigan Supreme Court. His announcement was accompanied by branding himself the "Blind Justice" - a clever effort on many levels.

For one thing, a catchy tagline ensures people will remember him. Say what you will about Snyder, but "nerd" did stick in many people's minds - enough that he went from almost zero to the governor's office in less than a year.

Second, he's turning what some would consider a negative - his blindness - into a positive. Rather than let others point out his disability (and try to use it to question his ability to serve), he's making it clear that his disability will help, not hinder, him.

Third, he sets forth his idea that justice should be blind. It shouldn't be skewed by partisan (or other) bias - which the current Court is.

Bernstein is seeking an eight-year term on the Court, of which there will be two on this fall's ballot. Brian Zahra holds one of the seats that is up for grabs, while the other seat is being vacated by Justice Michael Cavanagh, who is retiring due to age.

Judge Deborah Thomas is challenging incumbent David Viviano for the two-year partial term of the seat formerly held by Diane Hathaway.

6/20/2014

Grand Rapids-area Democrats more organized than ever, ready to win

Dozens of Democratic candidates and activists packed the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Coordinated Campaign office for the office's grand opening Thursday evening.

Located at 345 Fuller Ave. NE (site of the Obama-Biden campaign office in 2012), the office will serve as a hub for Democratic campaign activities in West Michigan during the 2014 election cycle.

Not in recent memory has the Grand Rapids-area Democratic Coordinated Campaign office opened so early in a campaign cycle. In previous election cycles, the Coordinated Campaign office didn't open until July or August; in 2010, it didn't even open until September.

Speakers at the grand opening event included:

  • Bob Goodrich, candidate for Congress, spoke of the need for Democrats to get women to vote.
  • Rep. Brandon Dillon discussed Democrats' effort to win a majority in the State House, an effort which he is heading up this cycle.
  • Rep. Winnie Brinks said she had no interest in politics until just a few years ago, but saw a need to get involved.
  • Lance Penny, candidate for State Senate in the 29th District (challenging Dave Hildenbrand), noted that the district is winnable for Democrats. President Obama carried the district in 2008 and 2012.
  • County Commissioner Carol Hennessy talked about the influence Democrats have gained on the County Commission.
  • Daniel Morse, candidate for County Commission, discussed his race against County Commission Chair Dan Koorndyk in the 18th District. Morse has the support of a number of police, fire, and teachers' unions.
We're just 137 days away from Election Day - and Democrats are doing everything we can to make sure November 4, 2014, is as magical as November 4, 2008.

Live in Michigan? Join the campaign - sign up right now to volunteer.

6/10/2014

Free advice


  1. If your Facebook/Twitter feed has a high level of negativity or suckitude, folks probably won't follow it.
  2. Using BOLD AND ALL-CAPS in the body of your emails? Don't expect that to motivate people to get involved in your cause.
  3. If you do feel you need to use BOLD AND ALL-CAPS because people aren’t helping, then maybe you should stop ignoring their offers to help.
  4. Respect, Empower, Include - it’s not just a saying, it’s also sound strategy.

But what do I know, I’ve only been involved in communications strategy and community engagement for a number of years now (including working for OFA in Chicago and being Deputy National Communications Director of the College Democrats of America).

6/04/2014

Williams, Casteel, Jewell among new UAW leaders

The United Auto Workers has a new person at the helm - and he's not from Michigan.

The UAW convention a little while ago elected Illinois native Dennis Williams to lead the auto union for the next few years. A Marine Corps Veteran, he is a friend of President Obama and has been the Secretary-Treasurer since 2010.

Succeeding Williams as Secretary-Treasurer will be Gary Casteel, who has served as director for Region 8 (which covers many Southeastern states).

In addition to re-electing Vice Presidents Cindy Estrada and Jimmy Settles, members also elected Flint native and Region 1-C Director Norwood Jewell to serve as Vice President.

5/06/2014

Grand Rapids to Koch Brothers: Oh No You Don't!

Thinking they could send an anti-tax message ahead of this year's midterm election, the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity shoveled nearly $6,000 into the River City and tried to deceive people into opposing investment in infrastructure.

Spoiler alert: They failed.

Harsh winter weather has long left Michigan with some of the worst roads in the country. This past winter has been even more brutal than normal. Despite that, Michigan ranks dead-last - 50th out of 50 - in per-person road funding.

Grand Rapids has a city income tax; in 2010 voters increased the income tax from 1.3% to 1.5% to keep essential services covered through the recession. The tax was set to revert back to 1.3% next year; however, city leaders proposed extending it through 2030 to cover road work.

Take note of that - employees wouldn't be paying higher taxes than they have been for the past few years; rather, they'd pay the same amount through the end of next decade to ensure that they don't have to keep spending time and money getting their vehicles fixed.

But the Koch Brothers thought they could pull one over on the people of Grand Rapids.

They used their typical trickery language to try to confuse voters. They called it a "tax increase" when it wasn't. They said it was a "bailout" for Grand Rapids's outstanding city leaders. (GR is one of the best-run cities in the area - and they have progressive leadership, which could explain that one.)

You can't fool Grand Rapidians.

Today, almost 2/3 of Grand Rapids voters voted to keep the tax at 1.5% so area roads can be, you know... navigable.

That $6,000 they spent trying to fool people? Wasted.

The Koch Brothers' attempt at sending an anti-tax message in this election year? Failed.

Instead, it was Grand Rapids that sent the Koch brothers a message: We need infrastructure. We need taxes.

We the People need government to work.

And we're not going to let a bunch of billionaires buy our elections!