Depends on how much you want to extrapolate from the victory of new California State Superintendent Tom Tomlaksen over reform-minded Marshall Tuck. But, to judge by this morning’s comments from the balcony, not so well, especially given that AFT spent more than $20 million (of members’ dues; that’s a conservative estimate) in political lobbying over this cycle and NEA spent more than $22 million on super PAC’s. The two unions make the Koch Brothers look like Scrooge.
The unions put a lot of effort into this cycle. They are going after governors they despise (Wisconsin’s Walker, Michigan’s Snyder, Florida’s Scott, and Pennsylvania’s Corbett). The PA race is a gimme given Corbett’s performance in office but the others will tell a lot about their power today. Rhode Island is also one to watch, who wins and the margin of victory in the races for governor and lieutenant governor there – both with Democratic candidates the unions are not happy with in that union stronghold – has implications for moderates and reformers in the Democratic tent.
At the end of the elections yesterday, there were two very bright spots. First, Tom Torlakson was elected state superintendent of education in California with 52% of the vote…Second, the proposal to enshrine value-added assessment of teachers into the state constitution in Missouri failed, and it wasn’t even close. This vote showed enormous popular support for teachers.
There was not a lot to celebrate, but these were big victories.
The teacher unions had a really tough night. Scott Walker won in Wisconsin for the third time in four years. Walker has become Lucy pulling away the football, turning the unions into poor Charlie Brown. Each time they think, “This time we’re really going to get him,” and then he wins comfortably once again, further denting the idea that Republican governors can’t afford to take on unions in blue or purple states.
And it wasn’t just Walker. Republican governors Rick Scott won reelection in Florida and Rick Snyder did so in Michigan. Republican Bruce Rauner ousted Governor Pat Quinn in Illinois. Rhode Island Democrat Gina Raimondo, who’d infuriated the unions by pushing for pension reform as state treasurer, claimed the governor’s mansion. And Thom Tillis, who’d earned bitter union enmity for his role in the North Carolina legislature, eked past Kay Hagan to win a Senate seat.
The only gubernatorial target that the unions beat was Republican Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, but Corbett was a lackluster candidate whom Republicans had given for dead sometime last summer. The unions also claimed a big victory when Tom Torlakson topped Marshall Tuck in the hugely expensive California superintendent’s race, but I imagine that union strategists are probably busy filing even that win in the “too little, too late” category.
Certainly Election Day has proven to be a bloodbath for President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee. From the loss of senate seats in North Carolina, Iowa, Montana, and Colorado, to the defeats of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in the usually-reliable Maryland and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s unexpected comeback victory, the president and his party now are now forced to deal with a revived Republican Party that will work hard to make the last two years of his tenure tougher than ever.
But for the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which were expected to spend $80 million in an effort to defend its declining influence in education policy, the setbacks are even worse…
Instead of celebrating Tom Wolf’s victory in Pennsylvania, the NEA and AFT should abandon their outdated thinking that weakens them (and also helps perpetuate the nation’s education crisis). Or face their own abyss. All the influence-buying in the world will not help them.