We are geared up to make a difference in 2010.

Candidates running on trade reform dominated in 2008, as voters elected at least forty new fair-trade challengers to the U.S. House and five new fair-trade challengers to the U.S. Senate. As a result, the alignment of the trade voting blocs at the start of the 111th Congress will look very different from past legislative sessions.

At least eighty-eight new fair trade challenger candidates were elected during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.In sixty-nine of those races, incumbents supporting past unfair “free trade” agreements either retired or were replaced by candidates running on a platform of fair trade reform. In 2006, thirty-seven fair traders beat anti-fair trade incumbents, or took their open seats, in House and Senate races.

“It’s hard to find an issue where the votes have shifted so much, so fast, as on the trade issue” said Yvette Pena Lopes, trade expert with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Voters spoke loud and clear at the ballot box, on two consecutive elections, and they want trade reform.”

For years, polling data has shown that NAFTA-style trade policies are opposed by a majority of voters across all demographics. This was especially true in battleground states, and among the swing voters that will determine the election outcomes.

These powerful polling results translated into a deluge of television ads on trade in 2008. In these paid spots, candidates promised to “oppose job killing trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, which cost our state jobs.” Challengers also reminded voters when their opponent “sided with George Bush on trade policies to move our jobs overseas” and if he “cast the deciding vote on CAFTA”.

In July of 2005, two hundred and fifteen congressional members voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which passed by only two votes. If any one supporter of CAFTA would have switched a vote, the result would have resulted in a tie, and the agreement would not have passed.

“Winning candidates nationwide tapped into the widespread popular discontent voters have with past failed trade policies,” said Eric Dirnbach, trade policy specialist with UNITE HERE.“Members who voted for job killing trade deals found out their jobs were in jeopardy as well.”

Among those incumbents who lost are Reps. Phil English (R-Pa.) and Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), both of whom provided the two final votes passing the controversial Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper beat English, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, who voted against CAFTA twice in committee, but supported it on the floor. Former textile worker Larry Kissell, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Hayes, who had committed to oppose both CAFTA and Fast Track in 2001 but instead became the passing vote in favor of each.

For analysis on trade in this election, and to see the ads discussed above, you can check out the database of 137 paid trade television ads run by candidates for office in the 2008 election cycle or see the report,Fair Trade Gets an Upgrade(PDF).

Citizens Trade Campaign establishedthe TRADE Brigade PAC in 2010 to help elect Congressional candidates who want to reverse our disastrous NAFTA-style trade policy and shape one that protects workers, family farmers, the environment and our democracy.
Our fight is not only to win the votes of sitting members of Congress, but also to help determine who will formulate and vote on our nation’s trade policy. With the TRADE BRIGADE, we will work to elect members of Congress – incumbents and challengers alike – who will fight for new rules for the global economy.
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