Two years ago in the 2006 election cycle, the Credit Union Association of Colorado backed Jeff Crank, a credit union supporter, in a crowded Republican primary field for an open congressional seat in the Colorado Springs area.
In addition to CUAC's support of Crank, CUNA made one of its largest independent expenditures of that election cycle to help elect Jeff, spending $160,000 to help this strong credit union friend. When the dust settled, Jeff's election bid fell short by just 893 votes--one of the closest races in the U.S.--and particularly disappointing in light of the 300,000 credit union members in that district.
Losing elections is never fun, and several voices in the movement were critical of CUNA for making this large expenditure and failing to win this election. This criticism was misguided. Supporting strong credit union candidates is not without risk and the only way to "insure" you never lose an election is to never participate in one. A policy of noninvolvement will make every election night an uneventful one. It will also ensure that credit unions never advance the legislative ball one single yard.
If you thought this news from 2006 was the end of the story--think again. Despite this loss, CUAC has redoubled its political efforts in 2008, running a sophisticated set of mini-campaigns, helping both our federal and state endorsed candidates. In just the past primary election, we made over 50,000 calls to credit union members, dropped over 60,000 pieces of targeted mail to credit union supporters and walked over 180 precincts with the help of over 100 credit union volunteers.
Some of that effort was again targeted to help Jeff Crank, who once again ran for the 5th district congressional seat against incumbent Doug Lamborn in the Republican primary election. For the second time, Jeff fell short, but here is the final chapter. Congressman Lamborn cosponsored CURIA in July, adding his support for the need to modernize our credit union laws. Congressman Lamborn did so because of strong outreach conducted on our behalf. This raised the profile of credit unions and made the case for updating the law. The congressman wasn't bullied into this support--he made his own independent judgment that our arguments were good ones--and we welcome his support and look forward to working with him and his staff in the future.
The moral of this story is two-fold. First, CUNA and CUAC are in the business of political action for the long run and not every strategy results in an immediate payback. Second, if credit unions stay positive in their message of support for our candidates but run sophisticated, hard-hitting operations, it doesn't push other candidates away from us--it draws them to us.
So the next time someone criticizes CUNA or your league for losing an election fight, just remember, political involvement is a marathon, not a sprint. It can sometimes be a long way to the finish line.
Credit Union Association of Colorado