PowerPAC works to further social justice by advocating on issue campaigns, both at the legislative and electoral level. Below is a summary of some of the issue campaigns we have supported:
Proposition 54: In 2003, PowerPAC ran the California field campaign to defeat Proposition 54, Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action initiative. Prop 54 would have banned public institutions like universities and hospitals from accepting race and ethnicity information on entry forms. Prop 54 was defeated.
Proposition 66: In 2004, PowerPAC coordinated the field campaign to pass a California initiative that would have fixed the state's flawed Three Strikes law. On the slogan of "More Money for Schools, Not Prisons," PowerPAC argued that the Three Strikes law was unfairly affecting people of color in California. Proposition 66 was defeated narrowly.
Special Election: PowerPAC worked to educate voters about the California special election in 2005, which proposed several ballot measures that would have harmed working families and public education. We produced web-based materials detailing our position on each initiative, in English and Spanish and Cantonese, and e-mailed them to voters across the state.
2006 Ballot Initiatives: PowerPAC created an initiative guide for the November 2006 elections to help guide California voters through the 13 initiatives that were on the 2006 ballot.
California Dream Act: In the Fall of 2007, PowerPAC supported student leaders who were organizing around the California Dream Act. PowerPAC provided funding for buses that brought students from Southern California to the state capital to lobby legislators and the governor. PowerPAC also directly lobbied Governor Schwarzenegger, urging him to sign the California Dream Act, in conjunction with numerous faith, community, and advocacy groups across the state.
PowerPAC is committed to increasing voter participation among traditionally underrepresented and marginalized communities, in California and across the country. We believe that we will only have a true democracy when the electorate is engaged and representative of the population. Below is a summary of some of our work in this area:
Latino and Asian communities. In San Bernardino and Orange Counties PowerPAC seeks to support emerging community based coalitions aimed at increasing voter participation and turnout among emerging populations such as Latinos and Asians. Using community identified social justice issues of such as: immigrant rights, equity in educational access and affordable housing PowerPAC seeks to support community activists and community based organizations to strengthen coalitions to build non-partisan voting bases that can advocate for improved policy. In San Bernardino, for example, PowerPAC has campaigned with community groups to build non-partisan voter growth and engagement with the San Bernardino Social Justice Coalition (SBSJ).
In the rapidly growing Latino community, this especially means working with new and young voters. The California Latino voting age population is remarkably young. PowerPAC's aim to support this emerging population in California by supporting community groups who seek to build voter consciousness and empowerment on issues that they have self identified as important to them - such as education in the form of the passage of the California Dream Act, healthcare and lack of coverage for the millions of uninsured, and the current housing crisis in its dual faces of lack of affordable housing and predatory lending. As the Latino population continues to surge and more Latinos come of age, PowerPAC aims to work with community groups and activists to establish a base of socially and civically empowered Latinos voting in their own best interest for themselves and their neighborhoods in California.
This aim does not end with the Latino community. Asian voters, like the Vietnamese community in Orange County, are faced with the same issues that the Latino community is facing. PowerPAC seeks to work with activists in Orange County to work with many of the same constituencies to better communicate their advocacy for the quality of education, jobs, health care, and neighborhood representation.
College Students. In our commitment to long-term real progressive change, we hope to support and train progressive student of color organizations to run and win student government elections. Student government organizations can control up to millions of dollars in student fees and frequently have the power to influence campus life. Through student governments, student leaders also acquire and develop various leadership skills that can also transcend after college. In this effort, we can strategically build progressive power on campuses to win campaigns and develop strong leaders.
African Americans. The statewide success of PowerPAC in California has given momentum to the expansion of the organization's reach and activism regionally and nationally. The imperative of a political organization specifically geared to supporting and strengthening the electoral voice of African Americans is long overdue. PowerPAC activities nationally are undergirded by the institutional mission for sustained and vigorous activism leading to democratic reforms. It has taken on this challenge because no other organization has stepped up to do so.
In the 2008 election cycle, PowerPAC is committed to an unprecedented campaign in eight African American vote-rich states (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) during the Presidential Primary Elections. These states collectively represent more than half of the national black electorate historically disenfranchised and excluded from the electoral process. Even today, the voice and political power of African Americans throughout the southeast have not been fully realized.
PowerPAC's goal is to activate, educate and inspire African American voters - often forgotten and taken for granted during primary elections by both major parties - to flex its considerable electoral muscle. This is being realized in a range of on-the-ground activities including leadership development, non-partisan get out the vote drives and public education. The leadership development includes support and training to local community organizers who need tools to engage and mobilize voters. Public rallies, town hall meetings and paid and earned media will help to amplify their activities. PowerPAC will also support the presidential candidate who most represents the interest of African American constituents.
In 2006, PowerPAC began working on candidate campaigns that we believed would further our goal of increasing voter participation and turnout among our targeted communities of young people and people of color. The California work is based on demographic research PowerPAC conducted (link to research below). Below is a summary of past and current campaigns:
Tracking Arnold: PowerPAC organized a team of video bloggers to track the statements of our elected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was running for re-election in 2006, around relevant public issues including the budget, immigration, environment and race. View the video blog here.
San Bernardino City Council Special Election: PowerPAC supported Gwen Terry for a seat on the San Bernardino City Council in the fourth District after it was unexpectedly vacated in 2006. The race was significant because the city Council was split between conservative and progressive members. San Bernardino is one of the state's fastest-growing cities and is a flashpoint for many important and state issues such as a draconian anti-immigrant initiative that was proposed in earlier that year.
Westminster School Board: In 2006 two community education activists, Lupe Fisher and Frank Tran, we're running to unseat incumbent's on the Westminster school board in Orange county who were involved in the firing of Superintendent Kim Oanh Nguyen-Lam, just one week after she was hired to lead the district. The firing was considered to be unfair and racially motivated by a broad cross-section of the community and Westminster. PowerPAC supported the effort to to elect Fisher and Tran.
San Bernardino City Clerk: In 2007, PowerPAC supported the campaign of San Bernardino City Clerk Rachel Clark, who was being challenged by Joseph Turner, an ardent anti-immigrant activist.
San Bernardino City Council: In 2007, PowerPAC supported the City Council campaigns of Carolyn Tillman and Rikke Van Johnson, who shared common values of community building, with attention focused on safety, modernization, and respectful governance.
Barack Obama: Barack Obama's campaign for president of the United States in 2008 is historic in many ways, including the potential order bringing millions of new voters into the political process. PowerPAC supports Obama as a candidate of conscience, and because his exciting candidacy and message furthers our goal of increasing voter participation in California and across the country.
Obama eloquently represents a voice of progressive change, uniting people of all races - but especially the African American community - around new economic and social policies that challenge the status quo and provide real opportunity for justice and prosperity for all our people. As momentum builds going into Super Tuesday primaries, PowerPAC will independently support Obama through media and grass-roots efforts to increase voter participation in several Feb. 5 states, including California, targeting African-American and young voters.
PowerPAC is working to identify other strategic candidate campaigns for 2008 in our targeted regions throughout California, including San Bernardino County, Orange County, San Diego County, Contra Costa County, and Alameda County. We may also support candidates in other parts of the country in 2008.
PowerPAC has conducted extensive demographic research and polling across California that has shed light on the views and opinions of voters of color in California. Below is a summary of each project:
Poll: Spanish-speaking voters in key southern California counties
In September 2006, PowerPAC joined forces with the New Democrat Network Political Fund to poll Spanish-speaking voters in key Southern California counties on the 2006 Governor's race and other important state issues. The results showed that Schwarzenegger is in deep trouble with California Latinos, as only 21% of this key group supports him. The poll also showed that Spanish-speaking voters are motivated to vote against Schwarzenegger, due to his policies and rhetoric on immigration, health care, and the increasing inability for their families to afford a middle-class life in California.
Poll: Statewide Survey of Voters of Color
Latinos, the fastest growing demographic in California and a key swing vote in the state, overwhelmingly favor progressive policies including single-payer health care for California, greater access to higher education and reforming the Three-Strikes and You’re Out law, according to an April 2006 poll commissioned by PowerPAC.org.
The poll shows more than 60% of Latinos support either Democratic challenger over Gov. Schwarzenegger in the general election this fall. On immigration, the poll showed that Californians want their state leaders to address the issue, and showed broad support across demographics for solutions that include a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.
Research: A Strategic Approach to a Just Democracy
California has the largest electorate in the country with 17 million registered voters. Now a majority minority state, we have an uphill battle in ensuring a representative electorate, with 3.7 million eligible, unregistered people of color and another 1.2 million registered people of color who do not turn out to the polls. A geographically dispersed and extremely diverse state, we face numerous challenges in tackling the vote gap and ensuring participation by people of color.
Developing a Winning Strategy
In an effort to strategically focus our efforts and investment, PowerPAC.org embarked on an unprecedented quantitative and qualitative research project. The goal of the research project was to narrow our targeting to particular regions - from the county level to cities to political districts and neighborhoods - through in-depth demographic and voting trend research coupled with an analysis of political and grassroots electoral and organizing operations.
Based on our model for electoral organizing, we used the following factors to analyze and identify prospective targeted areas:
Total People of Color Population and Percent People of Color
Percent Progressive Registered Voters
Total Unregistered Voters
The number of people per non-profit organization
Percent Hispanic Eligible Voters
Percent Yes on 72 (health care initiative) Votes
Electoral Activity by local, statewide & national players
The number of hotly contested statewide campaigns and the number of local, municipal campaigns
Interest by political donors and national electoral organizations
Inland Empire Cities: A Majority People of Color
|Total Pop||% People
Key Findings: 15 Counties & 112 Cities
Our research focused on 15 strategic counties yielding these insights on electoral trends:
We found 112 cities (populations greater than 25,000) that were a majority people of color.
Re-confirmed Southern California as the powerhouse for potential growth in electoral participation.
112 cities were majority people of color, but almost all did not have an electorate that was reflective of that majority.
The participation problem for Southern California is equally a voter registration and voter participation problem whereas in Northern California, unregistered voter percentages are much higher. In the case of the Inland Empire, 53% of eligible voters did not participate in the 2004 elections.
There has been very little political investment in progressive electoral work in California’s Red counties.
Despite Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside being considered California’s Red counties, there is the potential to flip municipal and state seats from conservative to progressive given the number of registered progressive voters not turning out to the polls.