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Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The November 2019 election: building political support, from the ground up

By Brad Pyle

For all sorts of reasons, we tend to pay attention to the big, top-of-the-ticket races and their potential impact on the welfare of animals. But the truth is that races at every level have consequences for animals—and this year’s election was no different. We saw the opportunity to greatly expand our work to state and local elections at a level we’ve never attempted before—and the results made us very glad we did.

Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

Earlier this year, HSLF reached out to over 1,000 candidates running for state legislatures, city councils, and federal office to evaluate their records and positions on animal welfare. Of course, this is something we had been doing on a smaller scale in the past. Since our founding in 2004, HSLF has issued endorsements, made independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates, and organized grassroots efforts to get out the vote for sympathetic officials in races across the nation. Fifteen years into this work, we’ve reached a new level, with candidates actively seeking our endorsements and promoting animal protection as part of their campaign platforms. 

That is some real progress, and a few examples will make the point.

In Newton, Massachusetts, Emily Norton was re-elected to the city council, where she will continue to be a champion for animal welfare legislation. Emily has been an animal advocate for decades and has served as a member of the HSUS State Council for over five years.

Another HSLF-endorsed candidate at the local level, Troy Markham, was re-elected to the city council in Bexley, Ohio by an overwhelming majority. Markham worked to update Bexley’s city code to restrict cruel types of tethering and strengthen sheltering requirements.

With several races still too close to call, nearly a dozen HSLF-backed candidates were re-elected to the General Assembly In New Jersey, which has a strong track record on animal protection, and we look forward to further progress in this state in 2020.

In Virginia, we saw several animal-friendly members of the State House of Delegates and State Senate re-elected, including Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Hendron), a reliable champion of our legislative priorities.

In Texas, we saw an important policy matter going directly to a popular vote. The state’s voters approved Proposition 10—which proposed a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to allow a state agency or political subdivision to transfer a law enforcement animal to the animal’s handler or another qualified caretaker at no cost, upon the animal’s retirement or at another time if the transfer is determined to be in the animal’s best interest. Currently, the Texas Constitution prevents the transfer of certain public property, such as law enforcement animals, to a private person or organization.  

In Kentucky, Matt Bevin lost his bid for re-election as Governor to challenger Andy Beshear. As a candidate for office five years ago, Bevin attended a cockfighting rally to gather support and votes, which we criticized.

At the Humane Society Legislative Fund, we work to give animals a voice in our political process. This year, we evaluated a record number of candidates at the state and local level, and in crucial instances, we put our money and our energy behind them. And many of you did, too. If you voted or volunteered for one of these candidates, thank you. If you sent funds in support of our work to elect them, or made contributions yourself, we appreciate it. We wanted to make animal protection a priority in this election, and because of you, we were able to do it.

Every election matters and is decided by those who vote—and to vote you must first be registered. Be vote-ready—update your voter registration here—and then ask your friends and others to register, too.

And do keep an eye on this space. We’ll roll out our Humane Scorecard in a few days, and we’re making big plans for election and political success in 2020. 


Brad Pyle is political director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

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