Incumbents Beware

This entry was posted by Thursday, 20 May, 2010
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Primary election season is in full swing, and for those of us who follow politics for a living, 2010 is shaping up to be an odd year indeed.  There are a lot of fascinating story lines, but one trend is apparent across states and districts so far:  the voters are angry.  And not just at one party or the other – voters are angry with Washington in general, and longtime incumbents in particular.

Consider the three casualties among incumbents thus far:

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) lost his bid for a fourth six-year term at the Utah Republican Convention despite his nearly perfect ratings from virtually every major conservative organization.

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), a 14 term incumbent whose father held his seat before him, was defeated by a virtually unknown Democratic state senator.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)’s fifth term in the Senate will be his last, as he lost to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) despite the support of virtually the entire Democratic establishment, from the White House on down.

Each of these major defeats has its own unique story – Bennett lost in a convention process that magnifies angry activists; Mollohan was dragged down by repeated ethics questions; Specter faced questions about his integrity following his party switch – but the one common thread in each of these stories was incumbency.  And we’re talking longtime incumbency:  in just three races, voters turned their backs on 76 years of combined service in Congress.

If there is a take-away from these shocks to the political landscape, it is this – incumbents, no matter how long they have held office—should be running scared.  And maybe those who have been in office the longest should be worried the most.

So what does this have to do with credit unions?  We can’t take for granted that our friends in Congress will be there next January just because they already have been.  We owe it to those incumbents who have supported credit unions to do all we can to help return to office.

If we don’t, we may wake up Wednesday, November 3rd to find that some of our best friends in Congress are no longer there to help us.

3 Responses to “Incumbents Beware”

  1. Seriously, you have friends in Congress with huge ethics issues and want to keep them there? Or rely on someone in a party for 30-years and then switches parties just to save his job? Those are the kinds of people Credit Unions want as friends?

    Credit Unions need to support the candidates that match up with their business needs (and not the Wall Street banks), not an incumbent in Congress just because that person happens to be an incumbent in Congress.

  2. Scot – you may have misunderstood my post. I don’t mean to imply that credit unions should support candidates with ethical problems or solely based on incumbency. I was merely pointing out that being an incumbent (regardless of your position on CU issues) is definitely a disadvantage this year.

    The point is not that CUNA–or credit unions–should support candidates just because they are incumbents. Rather, we should pay extra attention to helping those incumbents we do support (because of their pro-CU record) since voters seem very quick this year to throw out incumbents.

    In other words, those solid CU friends in Congress who have been there for us year after year–and there are quite a few, going back even to HR 1151–may need our help more than ever.

    In an election year where you may see quite a few incumbents sent home from Washington, credit unions have an opportunity to flex our grassroots muscle and make sure that those who stay are the ones who understand and support credit unions.

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