November 2013 Elections Recap

Posted by Mr. Jay H. Dick, Nov 08, 2013 0 comments

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Depending on where you live, the past several months might have inundated you with campaign ads (Virginia), or left you wondering – what election?   Off year elections are like that, with some people hardly even noticing there was an election.  While not as dramatic as even year elections, there were a fair amount of changes that should positively impact the arts overall.

In 2013, there were two governors up for election (New Jersey and Virginia) along with the New Jersey legislature and the Virginia House of Delegates and a smattering of special elections to fill vacant legislative seats.  Further, and probably most surprisingly, there were 433 cities with a population of over 30,000 that held mayoral elections this year.  Of this number, 74 were in cities with a population of over 100,000.  Lastly, six states—Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington—voted on a total of 31 statewide ballot measures.

I won’t go into the details of each race, as there are many online sources to get this information, but rather I will focus on each of the winners as they relate to the arts.  As I can’t overview every race, I will also focus on newly elected officials, not incumbents who won re-election.  But, I will say this, I am very happy to see so many pro-arts winners!

Virginia -   Governor Elect Terry McAuliffe

This was the most watched race in the county and if you lived in the DC Metro area, you could not escape the constant TV ads, most of which were negative.  While the arts and culture was not a topic in the election, based upon my one-on-one conversations with Governor elect McAuliffe, the arts community can expect his support for the Virginia Arts Commission, increased tourism funding and in arts education.  Governor elect McAuliffe’s platform calls for an increase in tourism dollars and to provide health care coverage for an additional 400,000 residents (including individuals who are artists) through expanding Medicaid.  But, the Governor elect will be limited in his ambitions as the Virginia House of Delegates, which were all up for election this year, is heavily Republican and conservative.

It is also worth noting that the Virginia Senate (which was not up for election) is currently tied 20-20 with the Lt. Governor casting the tie breaking vote.  Currently, the Lt. Governor is a Republican giving the majority status to that party.  But, with the election of Lt. Governor elect Ralph Northam, a Democrat, the balance of power could shift to the Democrats in the Senate.  I say “could” as the Lt. Governor himself is a current state senator, so his seat will need to be filled (and kept by the Democrats).   Further, both candidates for Attorney General are also sitting state senators, so which ever wins (there is currently a recount as the race is very close), their senate seat will also have to be filled/defended.

New Jersey – Governor Chris Christie

I won't spend too much time on New Jersey as this race was never in doubt and Governor Christie is the incumbent.   As with Virginia, the opposite party controls the legislature, so the Governor will have to negotiate with the legislature to pass any meaningful legislation.



I personally believe that mayoral elections are highly undervalued from the arts and cultural perspective.  Much attention is focused on federal and state elections and often times, people do not pay attention to who is running for mayor.  Further, in odd year election cycles, like this year, voter turnout is abysmally low.  But, given that most of the funding for the arts and culture comes from the local level, this should be the area that arts advocates place most of their focus.

I as previously mentioned, there were 74 mayors up for election in cities with a population of over 100,000.   While I can’t highlight each of them, I will focus on a few that I think you will find interesting.

Boston, MA – Mayor elect Marty Walsh

This race for mayor in Boston was a great example of how the arts and culture can play an active role in the elections.  MassCreative, the statewide arts organization, along with a coalition of local arts groups, hosted a candidate forum on the arts and culture which the candidates actively participated.  Further, the coalition spent a great deal of time communicating and educating each of the candidates about why the arts and culture were important to Boston.  With regard to Mayor elect Walsh, “He has promised to hire a cabinet-level arts commissioner who will advocate for arts and cultural organizations, and work on a strategic cultural plan for the city that can be integrated with other priorities such as education, economic development, public safety, housing, and transportation,” said Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative, the convening member of the Create the Vote Coalition.

New York City, NY  Mayor elect Bill de Blasio

The Mayor elect will take over the helm of the country’s largest and one of the most culturally rich cities.  While he has professed his strong support for the arts and culture, he has tempered those remarks by saying that he will have a tight budget to work with.  He supports affordable housing for artists and integrating arts into every aspect of a child’s education.  You can see his remarks here.

Minneapolis, MN  Mayor Elect Betsy Hodges

Minneapolis is another example of the arts and culture playing an active role in the election.  At a Mayoral Arts Forum on Creative Placemaking held by the Minneapolis Arts Commission in September, Mayor elect Hodges offered her strong support for creative placemaking and the arts in general.  From her website, she states: “We must also invest in our people through our creative economy. Through the arts, including our musicians, actors, authors and chefs, we can build a better Minneapolis for everyone.”

Dayton, OH  Mayor elect Nan Whaley

The mayor elect is one of several new Ohio mayors who is an arts supporter. She included three separate arts-related topics in her policy platform: A City that Promotes Entertainment and the Arts, Promotes Downtown Dayton as an Entertainment Venue and Supports Cultural Arts within Our Neighborhoods.

Detroit, MI  Mayor elect Mike Duggan 

The Mayor elect appears to be supportive of the arts.  As you might know, the big issue for the arts and culture surrounding Detroit’s bankruptcy is the possible seizure of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection to pay off creditors. The Mayor elect stated:  “The art should be spared, because selling the works would irreparably harm the city-owned museum’s reputation and future.”

Pittsburgh, PA  Mayor elect William Peduto  

The Mayor elect is very supportive of the arts, is a former board member of the Pittsburgh Arts Council. So, he is someone who knows the power the arts and culture can play in helping a city.

A shout out to congratulate these supportive Mayors who won reelection:

  • Kasim Reed of Atlanta, GA
  • Christopher Coleman of St. Paul, MN
  • Annise D. Parker of Houston, TX

To see a full list of mayoral elections, please go to The United States Conference of Mayors web site.


Ballot Measures

  • Of the 31 statewide ballot measures, an unusually high 27 of the 31 measures passed this year. These included:
  • Colorado’s proposal for taxing retail marijuana to help pay for school construction and to regulate marijuana shops.
    • New Jersey voters set an indexed minimum wage in the Constitution (Public Question 2).
    • New Yorkers approved authorization for up to seven casinos (Proposal 1) but turned down an increase in the retirement age for judges (Proposal 6).
    • The voters in Maine said yes to five bond measures on the ballot, focused on infrastructure and higher education construction.

Locally, congratulations to arts supporters in Bend, OR on the passage of Measure 9-94 providing more funding for the arts through the increase of the local hotel lodging tax (9% to 10%).  70% of the added funds will be used to promote tourism is this central Oregon town of about 80,000 people.

Local ballot measures are hard to identify and track, so if you know of a local arts related ballot measure, please let me know by emailing me.

Now that the 2013 elections are over, we get to look forward to the 2014 elections, many of which have already started campaigning…

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