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Ballot Battle

ballot battle

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A lot is riding on the midterm elections for AGC members. “The construction industry and the millions of workers it employs have much at stake in this election,” says David Ashinoff, AGC’s director of political affairs. “At a time when the industry is dealing with historically high job openings and difficulties recruiting qualified workers and inflation impacting construction materials and services, it is especially important to elect eaders willing to work for common-sense solutions to the challenges facing AGC member companies and their workforces.”

Congress is not a place where the most common-sense ideas win the day, or even the best policies win the day, says Jimmy Christianson, AGC’s vice president, government relations.

“It’s basically about who is in power and what they think are the top policies, versus what actually needs to get done,” Christianson says.

The current Congress has been pushing policies that are a great threat to both union and open shop contractors, he says.

“There’s interest in expanding government-mandated project labor agreements, local hiring requirements and registered apprentice goal mandates,” Christianson says. “At a time when the industry is already in a bind finding workers, all of these policies would make it even more difficult.”

Looking toward November, the political environment, which looked very “ominous” for President Joe Biden and the Democratic majorities in Congress at the start of the summer, seems to be improving some especially when looking at the battleground Senate races, Ashinoff says.

“When issues like the economy, inflation and jobs are a top concern for voters and when there is little positive news or action, real or perceived, on those matters, it’s not surprising that poll after poll shows voters pessimistic about the direction of the country,” Ashinoff says.

It’s also “not surprising” that President Biden’s job approval remains stuck in the high 30s and low 40s, he says. According to FiveThirtyEight’s historical presidential approval data, his “approval rating of 39% is now the worst of any elected president at this point in his presidency since the end of World War II.”

The easiest way for voters to vent their frustrations is at the ballot box, and they are expected to do just that this November, Ashinoff says.

“Voters use the midterm election to either signal support for the continuation of a president’s agenda or to seek a course correction by placing a check on the party in power,” he says. “In this election where Democrats currently control the federal government, it definitely looks to be the latter.”

In a July AGC webinar, Jim Ellis, creator of the Ellis Insight publication and senior political analyst for the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, gave his take about what will most impact the midterm elections — the economy.

“Researchers said that inflation needs to rise by 7% for it to have an impact on voters, and gas prices have to reach $4.01,” Ellis said in the webinar. “Well, we are considerably beyond that, and you would think that would be bad for Democrats.”

The sentiment in 2022, he said, is very similar to what political consultant James Carville said in the 1990s, “It’s about the economy, stupid.” But for Republicans to prevail this November, they need to translate this sentiment into votes for themselves.

“Republicans have to take the next step and make their case about what specifically they are going to do to make the economy better,” Ellis said.

However, if Donald Trump announces before the midterms that he will run for president again in 2024, “then the conversation will change and everyone will talk about him instead,” he said.

Political analysts and pundits are predicting a shake-up in the next Congress, where Republicans take control of at least the U.S. House of Representatives — and Ashinoff agrees with them. He ballparks the GOP House gains between 15 to 25 seats.

“The Senate is a bit more difficult to predict, and Republicans could certainly pick up one to three seats in the chamber,” Ashinoff says. “But as Labor Day approaches, some Republican challengers in battleground states are making their party nervous as they struggle to keep pace with their Democratic counterparts in fundraising and polling. Because of this, it’s Democrats who are now feeling more confident about their incumbents’ prospects in competitive states like Arizona and Georgia and are growing more optimistic about being able to flip Pennsylvania. Whatever the Senate outcome, there won’t be a sizable partisan shift simply because the seats up for election in battleground states are in short supply.”

Democrats and Republicans have three, and at best five, pick-up opportunities, so there is no chance of either party getting to the 60-vote threshold to avoid a Senate filibuster, he says.

“Having divided government with a narrow Senate may force our elected leaders to work together and find compromise on important issues like workforce development, infrastructure investment, labor policies, taxes and environmental regulations. It would also help prevent bad legislation, like the PRO Act, from being passed,” Ashinoff says. “But all bets on bipartisanship are off once the 2024 presidential election starts to take form.”

Although the AGC of America does not endorse federal candidates, its Political Action Committee, AGC PAC, does contribute to congressional campaigns. Here are some of the top races where the AGC PAC has contributed to candidates largely based on their pro-construction, pro-business stance.

U.S. SENATE:

  • CO: Joe O’Dea (R) vs. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) [O’Dea’s construction firm is an AGC member]
  • AK: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) vs. Kelly Tshibaka (R), Patricia Chesbro (D) and Buzz Kelly (R)

U.S. HOUSE:

  • AZ-4: Rep. Greg Stanton (D) vs. Kelly Cooper (R)
  • KS-3: Rep. Sharice Davids (D) vs Amanda Adkins (R)
  • NE-2: Tony Vargas (D) vs. Rep. Don Bacon (R)
  • NV-4: Rep. Steven Horsford (D) vs. Sam Peters (R)
  • NY-19: Pat Ryan (D) vs. Marc Molinaro (R)
  • PA-7: Rep. Susan Wild (D) vs. Lisa Scheller (R)
  • TX-28: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) vs. Cassy Garcia (R)

Bold text denotes candidate has received a contribution from AGC PAC. To view the complete list of 2021-2022 disbursements to congressional candidates, AGC members can visit advocacy.agc.org/pacmap.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Christianson says members can have a significant impact. “Number one — you can vote,” he says. “Take a look at how your members of Congress are voting on issues important to your business and to the industry. You can learn more about this at advocacy.

agc.org. You can’t always trust what they say, but we’re tracking how they vote, which ultimately is what matters most.”

There are many ways AGC members can be engaged,” Christianson says.

“The easiest way is when you see an action alert hit your inbox, take those 30 seconds to fill out and remind your members of Congress that you’re one of their constituents — and that they’re voting on something that matters to you. It doesn’t take much,” he says.

Christianson compares this to giving holiday cards to family members not seen in a long time.

“Those holiday cards remind them that you’re still there,” he says. “Likewise, sending messages to your members of Congress are good reminders that you’re their constituent and there are issues that matter to you that you want them to know about.”

For the construction industry to have an impact on the 2022 elections, individuals who make a living in it must be registered to vote, be educated about the candidates and issues, and vote early, by absentee ballot or on Election Day, Ashinoff says.

AGC member company employees should visit the AGC Election Center at advocacy.agc.org/vote or constructionvotes.com to access the association’s nonpartisan Get-Out-the-Voter resources. They can also text “AGCVOTES” to 52886.

The Election Center allows individuals to register to vote; learn about local, state, and federal candidates; obtain information and deadlines about early voting; find polling place locations; and download resources to help support the association’s GOTV effort.