Democratic Governors and Statehouse Candidates to Adopt Obama’s Minimum-Wage Message

A memo shared with National Journal shows Democratic governors intend to make the wage hike a top priority this fall, betting they’ve found a GOP vulnerability.

Low wage workers wearing Santa hats join with supporters of an increase in the minimum wage during a protest outside the Air and Space Museum December 5, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Alex Seitz Wald
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Alex Seitz-Wald
Jan. 29, 2014, 4:45 a.m.

Demo­crat­ic gov­ernors and can­did­ates com­pet­ing in battle­ground states are plan­ning to make a min­im­um-wage in­crease a center­piece of this year’s cam­paigns, tak­ing the bat­on from Pres­id­ent Obama’s State of the Uni­on ad­dress Tues­day night, ac­cord­ing to a memo shared with Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Rais­ing the wage was a core part of Obama’s lar­ger theme of boost­ing “op­por­tun­ity” for all, and it’s a policy that Demo­crats run­ning for state­houses think will help them polit­ic­ally, ac­cord­ing to the memo from the Demo­crat­ic Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation.

“No is­sue bet­ter crys­tal­izes the broad­er de­bate between 2014 Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an gubernat­ori­al can­did­ates than that of a min­im­um wage hike,” DGA Com­mu­nic­a­tions Dir­ect­or Danny Kan­ner says in the memo.

This is a big year for the Demo­crat­ic Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation, giv­en the num­ber of Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors swept in dur­ing the 2010 wave who are now up for reelec­tion.

Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors from Flor­ida to Wis­con­sin have con­sist­ently op­posed ef­forts to raise the min­im­um wage, and Dems think that choice will come back to bite the GOP. The DGA points to a re­cent Wall Street Journ­al poll show­ing 63 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans sup­port rais­ing the wage and a sep­ar­ate Quin­nipi­ac poll show­ing a plur­al­ity of Re­pub­lic­an voters agree.

While it’s not sur­pris­ing that Demo­crats would echo the pres­id­ent on a cent­ral policy goal, rais­ing the min­im­um wage has un­til re­cently been seen as the do­main of the party’s pro­gress­ive wing and an is­sue that can­did­ates in battle­ground states might shy away from.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to a hand­ful of gubernat­ori­al races, at least. In Maine, while Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Paul LePage has ve­toed le­gis­la­tion to raise the min­im­um wage, Rep. Mi­chael Michaud, the pre­sumed Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee, co­sponsored a bill in the House to raise the wage na­tion­wide.

Demo­crat Mark Schauer, who is hop­ing to oust Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, has pro­posed boost­ing the wage to $9.25 an hour and in­dex­ing it to in­fla­tion, and said he would make hik­ing it a top pri­or­ity if elec­ted.

In Iowa, Jack Hatch wants to go even fur­ther and raise the wage to $10.10, which would give the im­port­ant polit­ic­al state the highest min­im­um wage in the coun­try. Charlie Crist, the Re­pub­lic­an-turned-Demo­crat former gov­ernor, who is run­ning to re­claim his old seat in Flor­ida’s state­house, also sup­ports set­ting the wage at $10.10.

Mean­while in Illinois, where Demo­crats are hop­ing to de­fend Gov. Pat Quinn as he heads in­to a tough reelec­tion battle, all four Re­pub­lic­an chal­lengers op­pose Quinn’s pro­pos­al to boost the wage.

And Demo­crats think the mes­sage will res­on­ate as well in red­der states like Kan­sas, where they’re hop­ing to push aside Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Sam Brown­back.

Kan­ner says Demo­crats will use the min­im­um wage to present a lar­ger eco­nom­ic mes­sage.

“These are two starkly dif­fer­ent eco­nom­ic philo­sophies, and the min­im­um wage de­bate makes that clear. In this case, Demo­crats are stand­ing with the Amer­ic­an people while Re­pub­lic­ans, once again, thumb their nose at them,” he said.

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