IT WAS A TIGHT RACE. In Indiana's 9th Congressional District, a 2004 rematch found incumbent Baron Hill racing neck and neck with challenger Mike Sodrel of New Albany.
Just two years earlier, Hill had retained his seat by 5% of the voteone of the narrowest margins nationwide in the 2002 elections.
Political analysts predicted that Hill and Sodrel would face a similarly close campaign in 2004. But when the votes had been counted and recounted, Sodrel had pulled ahead by 1,489 votes.
What made the difference in 2004? National Journal columnist Charlie Cook, citing Hill's votes on gay marriage and abortion rights, pointed out that Hill was "the only Democrat incumbent outside of Texas to lose re-election . . . But, insiders blame Hill's loss less on a partisan wave and more on his voting record.
"He had cast votes on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights that were easy to portray as out of step with this culturally conservative district" (GovExec.com, The Finish Line , January 4, 2005).
Sodrel's campaign staff credit his win in large measure to volunteersparticularly a team of 20 Generation Joshua members who worked long hours at the last minute to help push Sodrel over the top. Pointing out the slim margin of victory, Sam Wamsley, Grassroots Coordinator for the Sodrel campaign, said, "I know that the work that [Generation Joshua students] did did affect the outcome. Their work won Floyd County and closed the margin in Clark County, which is traditionally a Democratic stronghold."
Wamsley observed that most campaign volunteers are typically in the "middle age range. It's really nice to see a lot of young people out. That encouraged many voters as well. The Generation Joshua kids were out there and concerned even though they themselves weren't old enough to vote yet."
Sodrel's win is just one example of the impact Generation Joshua members had on the 2004 elections through HSLDA PAC Student Action Teams.
|Yes, you can make a difference|
Sometimes people ask, "Why be involved? I'm only one vote. I can't make a difference." If nothing else, the HSLDA PAC Student Action Teams showed during the fall of 2004 that a small band of dedicated youth and parents, in the right place at the right time, can make a difference. Fourteen teams of youth and adults were sent to nine races across the nation, and the results were very encouraging.
>>THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Generation Joshua sent seven teams to work on the presidential race: one went to Wisconsin, three to Ohio, two to Pennsylvania, and one to Florida.
Ohio: A team worked Tuscarawas County, which President Bush lost in 2000, with only 43% of the vote. In 2004, he won the county with 55% of the vote.
Although Senator John Kerry's campaign predicted he would win the city of Columbus and Cuyahoga County (near Cleveland), the president performed more strongly than expected, winning both. Generation Joshua had teams in both places.
Pennsylvania: A large team of GenJ workers was sent to Bucks County, and a team consisting mainly of Patrick Henry College students worked in Delaware and Montgomery counties.
President Bush lost Bucks County and the state of Pennsylvania. But statewide, he received 80,000 more votes than he had in 2000. In Bucks County alone, he added 32,000 votes.
|A Student Action Team on the streets of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.|
The president's campaign coordinators for Bucks County set a goal of touching 15,000 doors in the final four days before the election. With GenJ's help, the Bush team touched 57,000 doors.
Florida: A Student Action Team worked the Interstate 4 (I-4) corridor, running from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach. Later, the media reported that Bush won the state based on get-out-the-vote efforts in the I-4 corridor.
Wisconsin: Another team worked Wood County, where, in 2000, Bush received 17,803 votes and 49.8% of the vote. In 2004, he received 20,592 votes and 51.4% of the vote.
>>THE SOUTH DAKOTA SENATE RACE
In a race decided by 4,535 votes, the Student Action Teams played a part in John Thune's victory. A team was working in Rapid City and another in Sioux Falls.
>>THE OKLAHOMA SENATE RACE
Tom Coburn was ahead by 25 percentage points in the days preceding the election. Student Action Teams working in Oklahoma City and Tulsa added a burst of energy. The Oklahoma City team covered 102 precincts in two days. During his acceptance speeches in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Coburn recognized the efforts of the Student Action Teams.
After the results were in, Gary Jones, head of the Oklahoma GOP, wrote Generation Joshua:
The kids were a tremendous help. We were able to cover some areas that might not have been covered. President Bush carried every county in Oklahoma. That effort not only helped Dr. Coburn become our United States Senator, but it helped us in other down tickets races as well. I'm convinced the effort of the GenJ kids helped us win a state house and a state senate race in my home county, Comanche County. Thanks for all your help and a special thanks to the young energetic kids of Generation Joshua. With kids like that, our future will be in good hands.
>>THE SOUTH CAROLINA SENATE RACE
Generation Joshua had a team working in Greenville on behalf of Jim DeMint's bid for the Senate.
>>THE FLORIDA SENATE RACE
The Student Action Team in Florida worked for both Mel Martinez and Bush, targeting the I-4 corridor from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach. Martinez won his race by two percentage points and just under 80,000 votes. Again, as in Oklahoma, the Student Action Team's efforts also helped several state house candidates win.
>>LOUISIANA'S 1ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Bobby Jindal won his race with nearly 80% of the vote. The Student Action Team in his race touched 74,000 doors in four days. "We were confident Bobby was going to win," said Generation Joshua Director Ned Ryun, "but we helped him avoid a runoff. Perhaps even more importantly, the tremendous get-out-the-vote effort in LA-1 helped David Vitter win his Senate race outright with 51% of the vote. The Vitter race was a breakthrough. He is the first Republican ever to represent Louisiana in the U.S. Senate."
>>KENTUCKY'S 4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
|GenJ students operated phone banks for campaigns in several states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kentucky.|
One week out from the election, Geoff Davis was in a tight race with Nick Clooney (father to actor George Clooney and brother of singer Rosemary). This was a perfect race for the Student Action Team: a homeschool father versus Hollywood money. Davis won the race by 10 points. He credits the Student Action Team for eight of those points.
It should also be noted that Senator Bunning won his race with only 50.7% of the vote. In many counties, he received less than 50% of the vote. However, he won 71% of the vote in Boone County and 65% in Kenton Countythe two counties where the Student Action Team was working. Afterward, Representative Davis wrote:
Generation Joshua helped me win this congressional race. The energy and enthusiasm shown by the Generation Joshua volunteers inspired our local volunteers and our campaign team. This is truly a well-run program that makes a real difference in close campaigns. I believe it is also a very positive experience for these young volunteers who have the opportunity to learn so much about campaigns and our political process in a short period of time.
>>INDIANA'S 9TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Perhaps the real surprise on November 2 was Mike Sodrel's win in IN-9. Sodrel won his race by only 1,465 votes. A Student Action Team worked the last four days of the election.
>>TEXAS' 17TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
The only race the Student Action Teams lost was TX-17. Arlene Wohlgemuth lost by 9,089 votes to the incumbent, Chet Edwards.
|The significance of the victories|
Generation Joshua and the HSLDA PAC were launched at the end of February 2004. In a matter of eight months, Generation Joshua grew to nearly 2,100 members nationally. The PAC engaged in nine different races, helping fund over 1,000 students and parents on the campaign trail. These numbers and victories are significant. Homeschoolers came together in a relatively short amount of time and helped change the course of the election.
|Where do Generation Joshua |
and HSLDA PAC go from here?
"As GenJ looks ahead to 2005 and beyond, we want the program to become more locally based," said Director Ned Ryun. "Our goal for 2005 is for members to establish 300 GenJ Clubs, which will meet monthly to pray for the nation, discuss issues of the day in light of Scripture, and also plan on how to help elect pro-homeschooling local officials. The goal is to have 300 GenJ Clubs form in 2005."
HSLDA PAC plans to expand the Student Action Teams to become involved in state-level races in 2005. "For 2006, we hope that we can send out 2025 teams to work for candidates," Ryun said.
"We've had success so far with Generation Joshua and HSLDA PAC," said HSLDA President J. Michael Smith. "The beginnings are small. But if we are faithful in what we have been called to do, there is no telling where Generation Joshua might go."
"It is exciting to work alongside Ned Ryun in training these young people in the GenJ program," added HSLDA Chairman and General Counsel Michael Farris. "I am convinced that homeschooled young people who are trained in the principles of the Founding Fathers and are given real-world experience will be disproportionately represented among the leaders of our nation in the next generation. Not just leaders in general, but the top leaders in the House, the Senate, the White Houseand maybe even where the real power liesin the Supreme Court of the United States."