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NEA ushers in new era of political and union organizing during historic election

Effective member-to-member and public communications efforts affected outcome of races

WASHINGTON - November 12, 2008 -

The National Education Association, the largest labor organization in the United States with 3.2 million members, ushered in a new era of political and member organizing during the 2008 historic election. Through its member-to-member and public communications efforts, the Association effectively and swiftly mobilized members and their families and reached out to the general public in unprecedented numbers and in ways not possible or available four years ago.

"This remarkable election is without precedent, making November 4, 2008, a great day for America and public education," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "Our political program stands out for what we accomplished in this election, helping Sen. Obama secure a win in 14 battleground states and strengthening the Association as a political force."

NEA members live in every precinct, county, congressional district and state, representing 1 in every 100 Americans. They are one of the largest collections of middle class voters in the country. When immediate family members are factored in, that audience grows to more than 5 million potential voters.

In addition to the 14 battleground states NEA helped Sen. Obama win, NEA-recommended candidates won three of the four gubernatorial races, including North Carolina, Missouri and Washington. And on critical ballot initiatives in states like Colorado and Oregon, NEA positions carried the day in 14 of the 17 measures that have been called. On Capitol Hill, NEA helped elect many friends from both sides of the aisle. In Senate races, six out of eight of NEA-recommended candidates won, with three others too close to call. In congressional races, NEA candidates won 39 of the 50 races that have been called, with three others too close to call. 

NEA has been gearing up for the 2008 election since the 2006 midterm elections, which resulted in major victories for quality public education. To execute the Association's efforts and mobilize its millions of members, NEA created a department of campaigns and elections and secured the services of multiple well-known polling and data-mining firms. NEA also brought on board a team of seasoned political operatives, including Karen White, a respected strategist with experience in 25 campaigns in 21 states, who until recently ran the political shop at Emily's List; Carrie Pugh, former national field director for the Service Employees International Union's political department with over 15 years in political campaigns and grassroots organizing; and Kim Anderson, education and community activist and long-time Senate staffer, including having served as deputy legislative director to then Sen. Chuck Robb and as treasurer of Sen. Jim Webb's political action committee, and 10-year member of the State Central Committee of the Virginia Democratic Party.

NEA employed personalized member-to-member communication tools based on sophisticated micro-targeting models. Recognizing from previous years that its members do not vote solely on education issues, the Association crafted targeted communications to address the economic and top-line concerns of its diverse membership. The NEA modeling allowed us to identify not only whom to speak to, but what to say to them. For the first time, the Association expanded its communications to members' entire households in federal elections, nearly doubling its reach of potential to 5 million voters.

The Association's effective member-to-member communications helped cement the support of members and their families for Sen. Obama and NEA-recommended candidates in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Iowa, New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota and New Hampshire. States like North Carolina (9 percentage points), Pennsylvania (9 percentage points) and Colorado (11 percentage points) also reported large shifts.

In other races, NEA members moved in similar, impressive fashion. For example, in North Carolina, the NEA-recommended Senate candidate Kay Hagan polled about even with the challenger among members in June. When the results came in and North Carolinians chose Hagan as their next Senator, support for her among members had jumped 21 percentage points. Statewide, NEA members and their family total about 132,000. 

The Association also focused its efforts on getting members to the polls early. As a result, hundreds of thousands of education voters and their families took advantage of early voting, according to an NEA survey. In the swing states of Colorado, North Carolina and Nevada, an unprecedented 60 percent of NEA members and their families cast their ballots before Election Day. Other critical states like New Mexico, Ohio, Florida and Michigan reported impressive early voting results as well.

In additional to traditional phone banking and canvassing operations, NEA communicated targeted messages to different segments of its membership through Web sites, emails, videos, phone calls, direct mail and blogs.

In the end, NEA and its affiliates distributed more than 21.3 million pieces of mail, made over 2.1 million phone calls, sent more than 4.5 million emails to members in battleground states, and began defining John McCain in the spring, sending 5 million pieces of mail before Labor Day.

On the public side, NEA significantly expanded its independent communications efforts, running advertisements by its member-funded NEA Fund for Children and Public Education.  The advertising campaign was comprehensive, featuring television, radio and Internet ads. 

The NEA Fund ran a television ad in Colorado to set the record straight about Rep. Bob Schaffer's pro-voucher votes, and it ran a radio ad in Washington about Republican candidate Dino Rossi's unacceptable positions on health care, school funding and the minimum wage.

And with its "Got Tuition?" national grassroots lobbying campaign, NEA conducted a ground-breaking poll about the rising costs of attending college. NEA targeted younger voters to raise awareness about college affordability, visited more than 60 college campuses, distributed over 60,000 voter guides, garnered over 12,000 petition signatures, drove over 140,00 visits to its Web site, and linked 30,000 viewers to YouTube videos.

"As we look to the next round of gubernatorial and congressional races, in 2010, NEA is well positioned to continue to build on the success of our member-to-member communication campaign to help elect friends of public education to strengthen public schools, create more jobs and grow the economy," said Van Roekel.  

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823