CASH Courier > 2004 Spring Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier

Animal Rights and Effective Political Action

In the last issue of the C.A.S.H. Courier we talked about setting up a voters’ database of people committed to voting for candidates who will promote animal rights issues. This time, we’ll focus on how to pick a contest and a candidate for optimum results.

In general, what we do is this:

We approach candidates involved in an upcoming election – either a general election or a primary. We introduce ourselves as the League of Humane Voters, and let them know how many voters we represent in their district. We ask for a meeting with the candidates for the purpose of evaluating whether we should endorse them. At the meeting, we inform them that we would like a general commitment of support for Animal Rights legislation regardless of their past voting record. We also ask for their sponsorship or endorsement of a particular bill that we would like to see introduced or that is pending from a prior legislative session. If they agree and give us the impression that they are in favor of our agenda, we then agree to endorse them to our voters in their district. We then issue a press release in which we endorse the candidates and quote them as gratefully accepting our endorsement. They pledge to support a general Animal Rights agenda, and to work for the passage of specific Bills. We then do a postcard mailing to our voters in our database in their districts and ask them to vote for the endorsed candidate.

Let’s start looking at some of the basics rules for a picking a candidate to support:

Rule #1: Seek tight races.

The best race for our purposes is one that’s close – the closer the better. We can only bargain effectively in a close race since we can only swing about 3% to 5% of the voters in any given election. Consider that if a candidate is expected to win with 60% or more of the vote, there isn’t much we can do for him or her with our 3% -- or even 5%. This candidate doesn’t need us. If we were to endorse popular candidates, they would give us a handshake and a “thank you,” but they would not be under any obligation to support our issues as they come up. By the same token, we can’t anything for the opponent. So there is very little point in actively getting into that race. If, on the other hand, one of the candidates is projected to win by 1% or 2%, or the race is “too close to call,” then we can be effective power brokers for either side.

There are many benefits to having endorsed a winner in a tight race. The local politicians will know that your AR-PAC helped put a candidate over the top, so they may seek out and value your endorsement in future elections. The candidate will be beholden to you, since he knows he cannot afford to lose your support in future elections. Paradoxically, a candidate who wins by a whisker has more clout with his party leadership than a shoo-in candidate. If he needs his party leaders’ support to pass a Bill, he can say something like: “Look here guys, the opposition is going to run somebody with real deep pockets against me next time – we may lose the district. I’ve got to support my constituents. My constituents want to see the no-trapping bill (or whatever bill) passed. If I can’t deliver we’re in real trouble in the next election. Please help me out and get this bill passed.” A candidate who wins year-in and year-out is taken for granted by the party leadership. They expect him to be able to hold his seat and, in their view, he doesn’t need any special favors or support.

There are other rules we will expand on in the next installment of “Animal Rights and Effective Political Action”:

Rule #2: Go with the winner.

Rule #3: Get over party politics.

Rule #4: Forget past voting history

Rule #5: Ignore personal habits of the candidate.

Rule #6: Remember this is politics.  You’re not here to make friends, to reward good behavior, or to punish bad behavior. Your sole purpose is get laws passed that promote Animal Rights.


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