Beyond the ABC of Politics: AMA Focus on Critical Analysis and Strategy Building
By Bushra Ahmad
University of California, Berkeley
CA


Led by the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), the Bay Area Muslim activists are applying a new approach to influence key races. Stepping beyond the conventional steps of voter registration and voter education, they are engaging in critical analysis of voting patterns aimed at strategic coalition-building.
Although Richard Pombo won the primary election held on June 6, 2006, this does not mean that he cannot be defeated. If one looks at the individual candidates running in the eleventh district, one sees that Pombo cannot be defeated. Yet, if a coalition framework is adopted, it appears that Pombo may easily be defeated.
In the 2004 election, Republican candidate Richard Pombo received 61.3 percent of the vote while Democratic candidate Jerry McNerney received 38.7 percent of the vote. Because of Pombo’s negative image due to his stance on civil liberties and immigration, his support has gradually declined as those who previously voted for him are looking for an alternative.
These issues are of utmost concern to Muslim and Latino members. With Latinos and Muslims constituting a significant number in the eleventh district, both groups have realized that they can influence the outcome of the election. Muslims are creating a coalition with Latinos by joining hands in order to help elect a progressive candidate.
According to the district wide primary election held on June 6, 2006, Republican incumbent Richard W. Pombo took the lead with 31,459 votes while the other candidates collectively received 60,572 votes. Although Pombo received slightly over one-third of the district’s votes with 34.2 percent, the coalition received 65.8 percent of the vote. AMA researchers have determined that there is an implicit majority that needs to be mobilized through a broad-based coalition.
Source: American Muslim Alliance
Because the 11th Congressional District favors Republicans with a seven percentage point party registration advantage, Democrat candidates have recognized that it is a vital time to build coalitions with different communities in order to maximize votes. By analyzing the demographics of each county in the 11th district, one is able to see how such coalitions could benefit election results.
According to research by the American Muslim Alliance, Latinos constitute a significant portion of the eleventh district. In Alameda County, 7.2 percent of Dublin has a Latino population while 13.5 percent of Pleasanton has a Latino population. In Contra Costa County, Latinos constitute 4.7 percent of Danville and 7.9 percent of San Ramon. In Santa Clara County, Latinos are 53.8 percent of Gilroy’s population and 27.5 percent of Morgan Hill’s population. In San Joaquin County, Latinos consist of 27.1 percent in Lodi, 25.1 percent in Manteca, 32.5 percent in Stockton, and 27.7 percent in Tracy.
At a recent meeting jointly organized by the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) and the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) attended by Democratic Nominee Jerry McNerney, the AMA research staff pointed out the following facts:
Latino votes for the primary election illustrate the power that coalition building may achieve. In the primary election in Alameda, Pombo received 26.6 percent while the coalition received 73.3 percent. For Contra Costa, Pombo received 31.4 percent while the coalition received 68.6 percent. In Santa Clara, while Pombo received 22.4 percent of the vote, the coalition received 77.6 percent. In San Joaquin County, the primary election gave Pombo 39.1 percent of the vote and the coalition obtained 60.9 percent, thus, indicating that Latino voters have the possibility of swinging this election.
With the number of registered voters being 350,833, of which 37.15 percent are Democrats, 43.66 percent are Republicans, and 19.2 percent are Independents, it is possible to achieve a shift in voters. In order to gain over 50 percent of the vote for a Democratic candidate, a Democrat needs to receive all of the Democrat votes (37.15 percent of registered voters), half of the independent votes (9.6 percent of registered voters), and ten percent of the Republican vote. All the Democrat votes of registered voters would amount to 130,332 votes while fifty percent of 67,318 registered Independents would achieve 33,659 votes. In order to obtain ten percent of the 153,183 Republican votes, 15,318 Republican votes would be needed. Thus, a total of 179,309 votes are needed from a total of 350,833 registered voters.
Muslim activists have pointed out that one key factor that could help Democratic candidate Jerry McNerney with his race is that Latinos constitute almost 24 percent of the district. With the total Latino population being 23.8 percent of the 11th District, Latinos constitute 20.6 percent of Alameda County’s population, 20.6 percent of Contra Costa County, 33.9 percent of San Joaquin County, and 34.7 percent of Santa Clara County’s population.
Muslims have made Democratic candidates aware of the importance of recognizing their coalition and illustrating that Latinos are a vital source in gaining more votes. They have illustrated that Democratic candidates must be aware of Muslim and Latino concerns, such as their stance on immigration. If candidates are able to guarantee the support from such a coalition, then ultimately it may enable them to achieve victory in the 11th district.
Source: American Muslim Alliance.


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