November 8, 2012
Credit unions in the Northwest and around the country were rewarded for their political advocacy efforts this week, as credit union-supported candidates enjoyed an overwhelming success rate in Tuesday's elections.
All of the incumbent members of Congress from the Northwest—Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Greg Walden, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader in Oregon, and Sen. Maria Cantwell and Reps. Rick Larsen, Jaime Herrerra Beutler, Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jim McDermott, Dave Reichert and Adam Smith in Washington—were re-elected by comfortable margins with Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) support. Three more candidates from Washington vying for open seats in the U.S. House of Representatives—Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck—were elected with credit union support as well.
On a broader scale, Republicans retained clear control of the House. In the U.S. Senate, Democrats stand poised to boost their majority from 53 to 55, counting two independents who are expected to vote with the party.
The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC) supported candidates in 361 House races and 33 Senate races. As of Wednesday, CULAC-supported candidates had won 336 House contests, with 12 races still uncalled, and had won 26 Senate races.
Overall, that gave CUNA-supported candidates a 96-percent success rate, prompting CUNA President and CEO Bill Cheney to call Tuesday, “a great day for credit unions overall and the races in which we were focused.”
CUNA's CULAC was recently named the most bipartisan political action committee (PAC) among opensecrets.org's list of the top 20 PAC contributors for this election cycle. According to the report, the $1,852,650 spent by CUNA as of Sept. 30 was nearly evenly divided between the two major parties: 49 percent of the funds went to Democrats and 51 percent went to Republican candidates.
CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins said that CUNA and CULAC's campaign finance decisions, "like all of our political activities, aren't focused on helping candidates of one party or the other. First and foremost, we look to help candidates that understand and support credit unions."
As predicted, Washington State’s gubernatorial race remains too close to call. As of Thursday morning, Democrat Jay Inslee continued to hold a narrow lead over NWCUA-supported Republican candidate Rob McKenna, holding 51.14 percent of the vote to McKenna’s 48.86 percent.
The race only drew tighter when new votes were counted yesterday evening, and with approximately 1 million more ballots yet to be counted, both candidates have remained publicly optimistic. McKenna believes that while the early voters favored Inslee, he will have more support with the later voters. Inslee, meanwhile, expects to maintain his lead and has said he plans to announce key transition leaders as soon as his victory is confirmed.
Washington is the only state in the nation to still have an undecided gubernatorial race after Tuesday’s elections.
The secretary of state race is still too close to call as well, though NWCUA-supported candidate Kim Wyman boasted a very narrow lead as of Thursday morning, holding 50.62 percent of the vote to Kathleen Drew's 49.38 percent. NWCUA-supported candidates lead in the other three statewide races, including Lieutenant Gov. Brad Owen, State Treasurer Jim McIntire, and Attorney General candidate Bob Ferguson.
Of the 100 NWCUA-supported candidates in the State Senate and House, 93 were elected to office. The remaining seven races are still too close to call, and of those seven, the credit union candidate has less than 50 percent of the vote in six of them, including Don Benton and Mary Margaret Haugen, two members of the Senate Financial Services Committee.
“It looks like at least one member of the Senate Financial Services Committee, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, will not be coming back, and the Ranking Minority Member of the committee, Sen. Don Benton, is locked in a very tight re-election race (currently holding 49.9 percent of the vote),” said Mark Minickiello, vice president of legislative affairs for the NWCUA. “This could be a setback to our 2013 legislative agenda. The Senate Financial Services Committee is only made up of seven members. Losing two of them could set us back a bit, as it takes time to bring new members up to speed on credit union issues. It’s always a challenge when you lose legislators who understand and support credit unions.”
Minickiello stressed, however, that on the whole, the election had been a very successful one for credit unions in Washington.
“Thank you to everyone who participated in this election—those who interviewed candidates, helped deliver PAC checks, and shared the list of NWCUA-supported candidates with your staff and members,” Minickiello said. “No matter your political preference, it was an exciting election, and credit unions were well-represented. It will continue to be an exciting week as the final ballots get counted!”
With a very close Oregon Senate composed of 16 Democrats and 14 Republicans and a split Oregon House made up of 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans, all eyes were on several House and Senate races in Oregon that could give control to either party.
After Tuesday’s election, the Democrats prevailed in almost all of the close legislative races, giving them a 34-26 majority in the House and maintaining their 16-14 lead in the Senate.
In the most competitive races in the Oregon House, Democrats defeated four Republican freshmen in the House. In Gresham, Rep. Matt Wand lost to Chris Gorsek. In Washington County, Rep. Katie Eyre of Hillsboro lost to Ben Unger, while Rep. Shawn Lindsay, also of Hillsboro, was defeated by Joe Gallegos. In Clackamas and Multnomah counties, Rep. Patrick Sheehan lost to Shemia Fagan.
In Clackamas County, Democrat and former Rep. Brent Barton won the House District 40 seat held by outgoing Rep. Dave Hunt. In House District 37, Rep. Julie Parrish held a slim lead over Democrat Carl Hosticka.
Democratic House Leader Tina Kotek is expected to be elected Speaker of the Oregon House, with Rep. Bruce Hanna leading the House Republicans.
On the Senate side, the two most competitive races were incumbent Laurie Monnes Anderson, the current House co-speaker running for Senate, and Rep. Arnie Roblan. Both beat tough Republican challengers to win their races, giving Democrats a 16-14 edge in the upper chamber. Senate President Peter Courtney will maintain the leadership position.
“Oregon credit unions did very well this election cycle, winning all of the races we contributed CULAF (Credit Union Legislative Action Fund) money to, with the exception of three House races,” said Pam Leavitt, policy advisor to the NWCUA. “We supported two incumbents in Washington County that lost—Rep. Katie Eyre and Rep. Shawn Lindsay.”
Credit unions also supported Joe Pishioneri in House District 12, an open seat. Pishioneri, a longtime credit union member and supporter, lost the election to John Lively of Springfield.
Democrats also swept the statewide seats up for election. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, a credit union-supported candidate, beat challengers to win 58 percent of the vote in his first statewide election. Incumbents Kate Brown, Secretary of State, and Brad Avakian, Bureau of Labor and Industries, beat competitive challengers and won with 50 percent and 51 percent, respectively. Newly appointed Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum won with 55 percent of the vote.
“The NWCUA would like to thank all the credit union advocates around the state for giving countless hours meeting with elected officials and candidates,” Leavitt said. “We worked hard to share the credit union message with those who would be going to Salem representing their district. Your advocacy benefits all in the credit union movement and is appreciated by the Association. Thank you!”
Questions? Contact a member of the Association’s Legislative Affairs team:
Jennifer Wagner, Vice President of Legislative Advocacy
Mark Minickiello, Vice President of Legislative Affairs
Pam Leavitt, Policy Advisor