By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
It’s the Service Employees International Union, stumping for President Obama.
Paul McCartney would tell you to let them in.
But really, it’s your call.
The nation’s second-largest union has targeted the Commonwealth as one of eight battleground states to flood with pro-Obama funding and, in campaign parlance, “boots on the ground,” as it did in 2008 among 14 states.
But the skirmish within the battleground of the Commonwealth will be Northern Virginia, according to Virginia SEIU staff, and eventually the Tidewater region — areas that lean more blue than red. Within those regions, the labor group’s campaign will focus on Independents and registered Democrats — particularly those who are Hispanic, black and young.
The concentration of immigrants, minorities and people in the health-care industry make Northern Virginia a key target, said Shonta Mills, one of about 10 full-time, Arlington-based political organizers for the SEIU.
Mills got unemployment extensions after she lost her job as an in-home care provider in 2009, before joining the SEIU full time in 2011. She said she believes Obama is the man to tackle unemployment, pave the way for immigrants and provide health-care benefits to all.
But Mills, who first voted in the 2008 presidential election, said four years of Obama hasn’t been enough for North Virginia.
“There are still needs here,” she told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau.
SEIU’s approach is more focused this year. The SEIU plans to spend about as much as it did in 2008, when it pumped $85 million into campaigns around the country, says Mark McCullough, political communications coordinator for the union. He didn’t have Virginia-specific numbers for either election cycle.
The goal? Get out the vote “to elect candidates up and down the ballot that will put hard working families first,” a Tuesday news release says.
Here’s the SEIU quota breakdown for now through Nov. 6:
- 20,000 conversations
- 67,000 knocks on doors
- 75 full-time political organizers called MPOs.
The target counties are: Arlington, Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax, and Alexandria. The cities of focus in the Tidewater region are: Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Hampton, according to SEIU staff.
Targeted states, in addition to Virginia, are: Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; SEIU says it will dispatch a total of 100,000 volunteers and 750 full-time campaign workers.
The SEIU is calling it the largest field campaign in its 91 years.
“Our boots-on-the-ground effort will be big, bold and targeted,” said Eliseo Medina, SEIU international secretary treasurer, in Tuesday’s news release.
In Virginia, SEIU has just one local public chapter, based in Alexandria — Local 5000. Of the organization’s more than 2.1 million members,7,000 are here, according to the staff at Local 5000.
Based out of nearby Washington, D.C., the SEIU is largely composed of members from the public and health-care services. The vast majority of its election spending goes toward supporting Democrats’ legislation and their candidates, according to Opensecrets.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit project that publishes campaign finance-related data.
Mitt Romney, Obama and even the First Lady have made a point to spend time in Virginia, where polls show voters leaning slightly left. The president has led his Republican challenger in the Commonwealth since January, according to Real Clear Politics. A June 17 Real Clear Politics averaging of four polls has Obama leading Romney by three points in the Commonwealth.
Romney this week launched a new television ad in the Commonwealth — “First 100 Days: Virginia,” as a part of a larger swing-state campaign.
Robert Atkins, a volunteer with the Arlington County GOP, said Republicans are positioning captains and volunteers at 52 of Virginia’s 2,414 precincts to elect Romney and others on the Republican ticket.
“We’ll take as many (volunteers) as we can get,” Atkins said. “If anyone shows up, we’ll try to get them to work.”