Since August, I have been fully submerged in Campaign 2012. I canvassed every weekend, passed out literature, made phone calls, and recruited other teachers to get involved. My Chevy Venture became a mobile campaign headquarters, with literature, yard signs and water bottles rattling around everywhere I went.
For three months, I basically put every aspect of my life on hold in order to focus on the election. I turned my fantasy football team over to a friend and took a sabbatical from my book club.
With the elections a month behind us, I have had a chance to spend some time with my family, take a few naps and reflect on the election results.
My feelings about the election are mixed. I worked on six campaigns this season. Two were victorious, but four were not.
I am thrilled about the two major victories: President Obama and Senator Sherrod Brown’s successful re-elections. I know that both will work for policies that support the middle class and public education. Working on their campaigns gave me hope. Sherrod Brown’s opponent and his allies spent millions and millions more dollars than Sherrod’s campaign, yet Sherrod won. President Obama’s grassroots campaign was the most impressive campaign I have ever seen: The night before the election, we were putting campaign literature on the doors of Obama supporters with the number 537 featured prominently. The lit piece reminded voters that 537 was the number of votes Al Gore lost by in Florida in 2000, so that people knew how much their votes mattered.
Unfortunately, I was part of four campaigns that were not victorious, including that of my best friend since childhood who ran for the State Board of Education. However, I spent the most time working on the campaign of retired teacher Jeff Bunck. Although District 47 leans strongly Republican, Jeff’s efforts had me believing he could be victorious. He knocked on over 10,000 doors and gave every ounce of energy he could to his campaign. His opponent spent a small fraction of that time in her efforts, yet she won the race handily, 60% to 40%.
The result of Jeff’s campaign and the campaigns of many other teachers left me disheartened. As I watched hard-working people, who stand for the things that I believe in, lose in races across the state, because the district boundaries are drawn in such a lopsided and unfair way. It’s never easy to see a candidate you believe in lose. What makes it worse is when you see the political system contorted to make the races almost uncontestable.
That brings me to the race that was hardest to stomach; Issue 2. Redrawing district boundaries through a citizens’ commission sounds so sensible. Almost everyone I talked to, Democrat, Republican or Independent, thought Issue 2 was a good idea. I figured that even if Jeff and other teachers lost this time, there would be a real opportunity in the next election cycle, if Issue 2 passed and competitive districts were drawn.
When I went to the early voting center and saw the way the ballot was set up for Issue 2, I knew we were in big trouble. I knew what to look for and exactly how to vote, yet I still found myself scrolling back and forth on the computer screen to make sure I was casting my “yes” vote for the right thing.
I still held out hope, as I made calls, canvassed and talked with friends, but my efforts, along with the efforts of other volunteers across the state couldn’t overcome that lengthy, wordy, unclear ballot language.
It felt like it wasn’t just the Congressional districts that were gerrymandered; it was the ballot and the system itself.
The defeat of Issue 2 leaves me worried about looming attacks on public education. With many of the legislators who supported SB5 in secure, uncompetitive districts, I worry they will introduce more extreme legislation aimed at harming our schools and our profession. I worry about the next budget bill and what policies it may contain, which would be protected from referendum.
Despite the losses, the gerrymandering and the looming anti-public education legislation, I am still hopeful. I have a lot of fight left in me, and so do my colleagues and friends throughout the state. We defeated SB5, helped elect a President and Senator, and all the while, continued to educate and nurture children. So whether it is through petition drives or the Governor’s race in 2014, I know we will come together again to work for what’s best for public education in Ohio.
By Dan Greenberg, Sylvania Education Association