From Oregon to Virginia, voters reject Republican right

Voters in the Nov. 6 off-year election made clear once again that they are fed up with the pro-corporate policies of the Republican right and looking for positive changes like ending the Iraq war, rooting out corruption and saving the environment.

Voters in Helena and Missoula, Montana, overwhelmingly approved referenda calling on congress “to authorize and fund an immediate and orderly withdrawal of the United States military from Iraq in a manner that is fully protective of U.S. service members.” Helenans passed the measure with 61.8 percent of the vote, while Missoulians passed an identical measure with 64.1 percent of the vote.

“By passing these referenda, the citizens of Helena and Missoula have called the Montana delegation and the president to account for the war in Iraq. We have exercised our right and responsibility, as citizens, to petition our government. It is now time for our elected officials to listen to the voice of ‘we the people,’” said John Mundinger, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

Missoula and Helena are the first cities in Montana to hold a citizens’ vote on withdrawal from Iraq.

Victories for Democrats in Kentucky and Virginia were a signal that the Republican’s “Southern strategy” may be running out of gas. (Also check out Emile Schepers and Michael Adam Reale stories at www.pww.org.)

Other election notables:

• Baltimore voters elected Democrat Sheila Dixon as mayor, the first African American woman ever to hold that post. Organized labor was solidly behind her candidacy.

• Texas voters approved five state bond initiatives, including $3 billion for cancer research and $5 billion for road construction.

• In Oregon, Big Tobacco spent $13 million defeating Measure 50, a plan to provide health care for 100,000 uninsured Oregon youngsters, paid for with a tax on tobacco products. But Oregonians voted 61.4 percent for Measure 49 to protect some of Oregon’s most beautiful open spaces and wilderness from greedy developers.

In the Pittsburgh mayor’s race, missteps by 27-year-old Democratic Mayor Luke Ravenstahl led Republicans to believe that they had a chance in this overwhelmingly Democratic city. Their candidate, who worked for Republican Sen. John Heinz and the elder President Bush, ran on a platform of privatization and merging the city into Allegheny County. Voters re-elected Ravenstahl to another two-year term.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George hailed labor’s get-out-the-vote effort in electing pro-working families candidates to municipal and county offices and to the courts. Judge Debra Todd, daughter of a steelworker, and Judge Christine Donahue, daughter of a coal miner, were among those elected “helping assure respect for the rights of working families on the courts.” The statewide gains have energized labor for the 2008 general election, George said.

Election Day 2007 was not without voting machine problems, starting with Cleveland. Notorious for the debacle at the polls in 2004, their electronic system crashed twice during the count, despite only a 15 percent turnout in the 2007 cycle.

Computerized voting machines failed in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Indiana and Georgia.