Union Battles and School Board Election Drive Voter Turnout in Bush-Obama County


Some want Paul Ryan to be the Republican savior in Cleveland -- the one to rise from the ashes of an embattled GOP convention. In the Great Ryan Hope vision, the House Speaker miraculously emerges after a second or third or however many ballots as the Republican nominee, saving the party from the shame (or pride depending on your perspective) from Trump as the nominee. For now, Ryan's very own district is locked in an electoral feud that extends from the state's infamous anti-union crusades of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose failed Republican presidential campaign demonstrated that money, more specifically Koch brother financing, can't buy everything.

With a population of 195,041, Racine is one of six counties in his Ryan's district and the only one in the state under the punishment of the Republican dominated state legislature because of the strength of the county's teachers union. "The legislature under Walker this year passed a bill that forced all nine members of our school board to run, normally it's only two or three folks that are up," says union organizer Elliott Magers.


Racine, a Bush-Obama county, is the only one holding such elections in newly drawn geographic districts. "They slotted it to be on the same day as the Republican and Democratic primary." The reasoning, according to Magers and many others, centered on the idea that the hotly contested Republican presidential could drive an extremely large conservative turnout that would prefix "a right wing takeover of our school board."

The plan may backfire due to the intensity of the Democratic race. Precincts on the blue side of town are already reporting massive turn out also complemented by the drive of teacher's union to get voters to the polls in Racine. In fact, Magers and other organizers have teams of nearly 200 students canvassing voters -- many electing to volunteer for reasons beyond the school board.

We have a group here in Racine in our high schools called 'Youth Empowered in the Struggle,' primarily made up of undocumented students and so the rhetoric that Trump is using has, and just broader too than just Trump.


Interstate 94 separates the county East to West, and West of the I-94 is a bedrock Republican community, and the closer to the I you get to Lake Michigan, it's working class and African-American families, represented by Democrats. Both Trump and Sanders have found a captive audience in this county, which has lost a large share of its industrial, manufacturing base. "That industry has gone overseas or to southern States where there aren't unions," says Magers. "This is one of the few parts of Wisconsin that has a high number of African-American and Latino families outside Milwaukee. There's not much diversity in the state."

The teacher's union did not formally endorse a candidate but issued a "recommendation" to vote for Clinton, which upset many Bernie supporters. Yet Magers, who leans toward Bernie, says that big divide among union organizers and students campaigning with the union -- Bernie versus Hillary -- is a good thing. The excitement over that division will send Democratic turnout upward and, voters for either Bernie or Hillary, are likely to embrace the union's school board ticket.