Trade Reform Candidates Dominate in U.S. House and Senate Elections

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Andy Gussert, PAC Director
Phone: (608) 213-8585

Citizens Trade Campaign

Trade Reform Candidates Dominate in U.S. House and Senate Elections

Voters Voice a Mandate as Forty New Fair-Traders are Elected

WASHINGTON - In the biggest shift on any one policy issue from this election, candidates running on trade reform dominated races across the country, as voters elected forty new fair-trade challengers to the U.S. House and five new fair-trade challengers to the U.S. Senate. As a result, the alignment of the trade voting blocs at the start of the 111th Congress will look very different from past legislative sessions.

 
"Winning candidates nationwide tapped into the widespread popular discontent voters have with past failed trade policies," said Eric Dirnbach, trade policy specialist with UNITE HERE. "Members who voted for job killing trade deals found out their jobs were in jeopardy as well." 
 
At least eighty-eight new fair trade challenger candidates were elected during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles. In sixty-nine of those races, incumbents supporting past unfair "free trade" agreements either retired or were replaced by candidates running on a platform of fair trade reform. In 2006, thirty-seven fair traders beat anti-fair trade incumbents, or took their open seats, in House and Senate races.
 
"It's hard to find an issue where the votes have shifted so much, so fast, as on the trade issue" said Yvette Pena Lopes, trade expert with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. "Voters spoke loud and clear at the ballot box, on two consecutive elections, and they want trade reform."
 
For years, polling data has shown that NAFTA-style trade policies are opposed by a majority of voters across all demographics. This was especially true in battleground states, and among the swing voters that will determine the election outcomes.
 
These powerful polling results translated into a deluge of television ads on trade in 2008. Reform candidates ran more than one hundred-forty different paid campaign ads focusing on problems with NAFTA, CAFTA, offshoring and unsafe imports, compared to just twenty-five ads in 2006. In these paid spots, candidates promised to "oppose job killing trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, which cost our state jobs." Challengers also reminded voters when their opponent "sided with George Bush on trade policies to move our jobs overseas" and if he "cast the deciding vote on CAFTA".
 
In July of 2005, two hundred and fifteen congressional members voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which passed by only two votes. If any one supporter of CAFTA would have switched a vote, the result would have resulted in a tie, and the agreement would not have passed. 
 
Among those incumbents who lost are Reps. Phil English (R-Pa.) and Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), both of whom provided the two final votes passing the controversial Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper beat English, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, who voted against CAFTA twice in committee, but supported it on the floor. Former textile worker Larry Kissell, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Hayes, who had committed to oppose both CAFTA and Fast Track in 2001 but instead became the passing vote in favor of each.
 
If one combines the 2005 votes against CAFTA with the fair trade pick-ups of the 2006 and 2008 cycle, the numbers approach two-thirds of House members who oppose the NAFTA/CAFTA failed trade model.
 
Seventy-five of eighty candidates endorsed by CTC PAC won their races, including sixty-five incumbents from both political parties who opposed the Peru Free Trade Agreement and cosponsored the TRADE act. In addition, ten challengers picked up seats formerly held by anti-fair trade incumbents from New York to Oregon, and from North Carolina to New Mexico. Three CTC PAC endorsed candidates running against incumbents -- Mary Joy Kilroy in Ohio, Mark Begich in Alaska and Al Frankin in Minnesota -- are still in elections with results too close to call.
 
"Voters support trade, but do not want more of the NAFTA and CAFTA model," said Andy Gussert, Director of Citizens Trade Campaign PAC. "Candidates who ran on trade reform won, and those who embraced the failed policies of the past lost. It's time for a new model."
 
For more background on Citizens Trade Campaign, visit www.citizenstrade.org. For analysis on trade in this election, and to see the ads discussed above, visit www.citizen.org/trade/politics/2008/ 
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