In advance of the Nov. 2 elections, CUNA is stepping up its grassroots advocacy with what it calls a refined "partisan communication" campaign aimed at bringing more direct involvement by CU members with candidates.
CUNA officials said its most recent success with the get-out-the-member-vote technique occurred in August in Georgia when it teamed up with Gwinnett FCU of Lawrenceville and Georgia Credit Union Affiliates for an 8,000-piece mailing to support a U.S. House candidate in a crowded primary field.
In that contest following the direct mail blitz, Republican Rob Woodall was the victor for a congressional seat representing a district near Atlanta and now faces the Democrat, Doug Heckman, on Nov. 2. Woodall is running to replace retiring Rep. John Linder, also a Republican. Woodall had been his chief of staff.
"This was the same kind of campaign we ran for Rep. Kanjorski," said Trey Hawkins, vice president of political affairs, making reference to a 2008 drive to support Paul Kanjorski (D. Pa.), a CU stalwart in a primary race.
Hawkins detailed that campaign as part of a talk he gave Sept. 15 before the annual Legislative Forum of the Maine Credit Union League in which he urged greater direct CU participation by members than in the past.
While online messaging is also effective in member vote-getting, CUNA has found the direct mail approach produces higher results "and is more targeted at individual households," said Hawkins.
Asked how many other partisan campaigns might be launched or what CUs might be included for the Nov. 2 election, Hawkins declined to discuss them, adding "they will be apparent after the elections."
In his remarks to the Maine group, Hawkins stressed the role that CUs can and should have in elections.
"When elected officials equate grassroots to strength to votes, numbers matter," he concluded.
Also at the Maine gathering held in a Freeport hotel, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer urged CUs to press ahead with advocacy programs and get more involved in the political process to protect industry interests.
Fleischer, a CU member since 1983 and who served under President Bush from 2001 to 2003, told the crowd that Republicans have the intensity this election season to win at the polls and will be helped by Tea Party enthusiasm.
Fleischer said he believes the Tea Party energy brought to the Republican base outweighs any splits it may be creating in the party. As for moderates, he believes the same frustrated voters who helped defeat Republicans nationally in the 2006 and 2008 elections will now help Republicans defeat Democrats in 2010.
When speaking of the political environment in Maine, Fleischer said, "The impact of the frustration with the economy and the status quo will not necessarily carry over to Maine. It is a state-by-state, election-by-election impact. Let's not forget, too, Maine voters can be particularly independent."
Also at the forum, attendees heard about the election campaigns underway by four CU directors running for seats in the Maine House. They include two incumbents: Rep. Herb Clark, vice chair, Katahdin FCU, and Rep. Michael Lajoie, vice chair, Lewiston Municipal FCU., The other two candidates are Kenneth Fredette, director, Sebasticook Valley FCU and John Picciotti, chairman, KSW FCU.