Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The bigger picture: candidates and coattails

Right now, when people think of November 4th, most think of who will be elected the 44th president of the United States of America. Remember, though, that in presidential election years the large voter turnout affects the "downstream" candidates, that is, the candidates running for office at the state and local level. Whatever your views about the future direction of the country, you should bear in mind that state legislatures and the federal congress will make a huge difference in steering us one way or another.

There is a connection between who heads a party's ticket and who gets elected downstream. If voters have confidence in the person who heads the ticket, they are more likely to vote "the party line" - that is, to vote in all or most of the Democrats (or Republicans) on the ballot with the party's presidential nominee. Also, if people opt not to go to the polls because they are dissatisfied with the party or with the candidate heading the ticket, the downstream candidates lose any chance of picking up those votes.

This really matters. Consider Leslie Byrne, currently a state senator in Virginia, now running for Congress. Leslie Byrne is a seasoned, progressive Democrat. If she goes to Congress representing Virginia, she will not only benefit Virginians but she will use her expertise to pass national legislation that will improve our country's approach to education, to health care, and more. Moreover, Virginia is a state that sometimes goes Republican and sometimes goes Democrat. If you feel the country needs Democrats at the helm, you want Virginia to elect Democrats. If you are not from Virginia, you could of course simply donate to Leslie Byrne's campaign. But if you have yet to cast your ballot in a Democratic primary or vote in a caucus, you could help not just Byrne but all the downstream Democrats if you think about which potential Democratic nominee will bring out the Democratic voters across the country in November, when we have the opportunity not only to elect the next President but to transform the entire political landscape.

As for Leslie Byrne, she has to win a June 10th primary before she can make it to the November 4th ballot.

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