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Ohio Mobilizes: Shamansky & Kilroy

maryjo and bob

Republican gerrymandering has created two interlocking, fractal-like districts in the north and west parts of Columbus, stretching out from the downtown of the city into the suburbs and rural counties beyond. Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15) has received much attention in her effort to unseat the number four Republican in the House, Deborah Pryce, while her neighbor to the east, Bob Shamansky (OH-12), has waged a hard-fought campaign against the pride of the predatory lending industry, Pat Tiberi. Despite the comparative differences in party support, both Shamansky and Kilroy have had success reaching voters through tried and true methods of canvassing, phone banking, and talking earnestly about health care, Iraq, and protecting working Americans from regressive Republican policies crafted without their interests in mind.

Kilroy's close connection to working families in the Ohio 15th can be easily seen through her focus on good jobs, health care, and educational opportunities for all Ohioans. Minimum wage is one of the most important issues in this election, in part because there is a ballot initiative that would raise minimum wage in Ohio to $6.85, but more realistically because it's about damned time that America's working poor were offered a helping hand by the government. 

Since much has been made of Nancy Pelosi's vision for the first 100 hours of a Democratic majority, I asked Kilroy on Sunday night what she wanted to vote on first if elected to Congress. Without hesitation she said: "Minimum wage."

The role of labor in the OH-12 and OH-15 is complicated by abnormally small union membership numbers for Ohio. Much of Columbus's factories have moved elsewhere and union jobs tend to be more white collar and connected to the government. Working America, an AFL-CIO community affiliate, has helped fill the gap by disseminating information about worker-friendly politicians and policies to non-union voters in these districts. They have between about 100,000 members in the 15th alone, giving them the ability to deliver a preponderance of the votes Kilroy needs to defeat Pryce.

I spoke with some of Shamansky's staff in the campaign's brownstone headquarters on a cobble-stoned street in German Village, a small neighborhood in eastern Columbus. In the last month Shamansky has drawn essentially even with Tiberi, thanks to a phone banking program that's hit made over 15,000 calls in recent weeks. "We need an extra push to capture the coming surge of voters," said campaign manager Drew Tappan.

Kilroy's campaign is running a robust GOTV operation in the final seventy-two hours before the election. It's a time frame that's most often associated with Republican GOTV strategy, but that hasn't dissuaded Kilroy campaign manager Scott Kozar from pulling together a canvass manned by over 160 people to coincide with a fifty-five line phone bank on Sunday. Kozar is focusing on turning out heavily Democratic precincts and bringing home victory from votes in the inner-ring suburbs that have been the main target their messaging campaign.

Shamansky and Kilroy's canvassing operations have relied heavily on local voters to spread the message about their candidacies. Kozar's philosophy is that "the most effective messenger is someone in an entrenched social network." Does this sound familiar to anyone? Kozar was talking about the role of union members qua organizers, but the similarities to blogger online social networks surely holds true and can be seen playing out as netroots-supported candidates around America are poised to ride a self-generated Democratic wave into a majority on the Hill.

I've been in Columbus, Ohio since Saturday morning as part of the AFL-CIO's Labor 2006 program that's sending bloggers to cover key races and the voter mobilizations that are taking place to achieve victory on November 7th. Adam Conner and Nancy Scola are blogging the Midwest and Pennsylvania, respectively, as part of the same program and their fantastic work can be found on MyDD. Photos from my trip can be seen on my Flickr feed.

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