Natasha Parker made money Tuesday handing out flyers urging East Rockers at the polls to vote for Linda McMahon—even though she wasn’t planning to do so herself.
Parker (pictured) was part of a paid army of African-American poll workers dispatched to urban polling districts across Connecticut by the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Linda McMahon.
Their mission: To urge voters to split their tickets for McMahon and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Parker wore the group’s uniform: a purple T-shirt pushing the Obama-McMahon ticket. She handed out a “sample ballot” instructing people to choose McMahon on the Independent Party line. Nowhere did the materials mention McMahon’s Republican affiliation. Or the fact that she in fact supports Republican Mitt Romney for president.
Parker, who is 25 and lives on Goffe Street, said Linda McMahon’s campaign is paying her to stand at the polls from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (She said she didn’t know how much.)
However, Parker said, “that doesn’t mean I have to vote for her.”
Parker said she’s definitely voting for Obama, and she’s unsure about the U.S. Senate race. She said McMahon does not support the social services she relies on: “She’s not for food stamps and stuff.”
“I’m undecided,” Parker said, “but Obama supports [Democrat Chris] Murphy. I think I might go for Murphy.”
Parker was finding that the voters she encountered were equally unimpressed with the idea of voting for McMahon.
“Obama doesn’t support Linda McMahon,” some voters told her, Parker said. Her reply: “Well, she supports him.” (She didn’t know that McMahon actually supports Romney.)
Most East Rockers refused to take the pro-McMahon flyers, Parker reported.
“I’m getting a lot of people saying no. People don’t like her.” Parker said she had more luck earlier in the morning, when she stood at the Nathan Hale School in the East Shore.
At the Truman School in New Haven’s Hill neighborhood, at least one African-American voter left the polls still confused by all the messages.
Asked whom she voted for, the voter, 49-year-old Rovella Weeks, stammered, jumbling up McMahon’s and Murphy’s names.
“Linda McMahon,” she finally said, then corrected herself. “Chris Murphy!”
“She [McMahon] confused me when she said, ‘I’m down with Obama,’” Weeks said. “This is the worst election for craziness.”
She said she just ignored all the attack ads and voted for the party: Democratic all the way across. “I blocked them all out.”
Asked to described McMahon, Weeks said, “Very cunning.” McMahon had “slick” ads, she said. “She’s a smart lady.”
Asked to describe Murphy, Weeks said only, “He’s Democratic.”
The scene at New Haven’s polls was mirrored in other cities, where the McMahon camp hired African-Americans to wear the same purple “I Support McMahon & Obama” T-shirts and hand out leaflets making the pair appear to be running on a joint ticket. The tactic outraged the Service Employees International Union, which is working for Democrat Murphy. In a release, it claimed the McMahon camp stole the design in order to deceive voters.
“This is a cynical and phony attempt to further confuse voters. SEIU is well known around Connecticut, especially in the cities, for its member activists, always clad in their purple T-shirts,” said SEIU CT State Council Director Paul Filson stated in the release. “SEIU has enthusiastically endorsed Chris Murphy and Barack Obama. I’ve received numerous calls telling me that they were initially confused by the McMahon T-shirts.”
McMahon’s campaign manager, Corry Bliss, defended the shirts in a conversation with the Independent.
“Thousands of Democrats across Connecticut are today are voting for Barack Obama and Linda McMahon. Those Democrats deserve to have their voice heard,” Bliss said.
He was asked if the campaign deliberately designed the shirts to mirror the SEIU’s.
“We designed the shirts to reflect the fact that there are thousands of Democrats across Connecticut who support Linda McMahon,” Bliss said.
Click here and here for related stories about McMahon’s urban strategy.
Murphy’s Vote Is Turning Out
For Murphy’s part, New Haven’s vaunted Democratic vote-pulling operation appeared to be in gear Tuesday. It ramped up the number of registered voters to the highest level in town in decades in a late-campaign drive. And while polling places may be lacking the celebratory history-making air of 2008, the lines were long and early signs pointed to a turnout as large if not larger than last time.
Meanwhile, Murphy supporters aimed to respond to the McMahon Obama pitch with signs like the one pictured.
McMahon’s split-the-ticket tactic prompted much debate at the polls and on Facebook, including this thread on the page belonging to Kevin Ewing of the West River neighborhood (excerpted here):
“Kevin C. Ewing: Spoke with a couple folks working the polls wearing Obama McMahon t shirts and passing out campaign cards. So I had to question them. McMahon is paying them $300 each to do it. ‘Do you know who she is or what she thinks?’ I asked. ‘I know my rent is due and she offered me easy money,’ they replied. ‘I ain’t mad at you,’ I said.
“This is where we are, folks.
“Gary Doyens: It’s just marketing. Those who get paid to help a candidate should do it altruistically? If they had a job, or really believed in the alternative to Linda McMahon, they might. In the meantime, it’s a job and it pays the bills. That’s more than they will have tomorrow. And by the way, Democrats are paying people too.”
“William Kurtz: The problem is not paying people; it’s trying to link her name to an expected Obama victory. But in the end, voter beware. It shouldn’t fool anyone with a clue.”
Voters lined up early and waited in line to cast ballots across New Haven. One voter showed up at 4:20 a.m., a full 100 minutes before the polls opened, at Jepson School in the Heights. A line was already forming by 5:40 a.m. at the Ellsworth Avenue polling place in the Edgewood neighborhood. In the hectic pre-work hours, voters reported waiting as long as an hour in lines with as many as 300 standees at Wilbur Cross High School in East Rock; as of 1:05 p.m., 1,121 people had voted in Ward 10 and 750 in Ward 9.
The line was still out the door at Edgewood School at 9 a.m. State Sen. Martin Looney (who is running unopposed for reelection) waited 45 minutes to cast his ballot at Nathan Hale School in Morris Cove.
Even after the morning rush, voters were still waiting a good half hour at Lincoln Bassett School in Newhallville. Same with Berger Apartments in West River, where the line was reported still out the door.
Energetic registration drives—by the Democratic Town Committee, by the state party campaign, by the Central Labor Council, by some Yalies—brought the number of eligible voters in New Haven above 71,000, more than 6,000 above the total registered in 2008. An estimated 7,000 to 8,000 of those new registrations occurred since early September.
Allan Appel, Michelle Turner, and Gwyneth K. Shaw contributed to this story.
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posted by: just my view on November 6, 2012 3:24pm
Pretty much sums it up:
“Parker, who is 25 and lives on Goffe Street, said Linda McMahon’s campaign is paying her to stand at the polls from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (She said she didn’t know how much.” “YOU TAKE A JOB AND DON"T ASK HOW MUCH YOU"RE GOING TO GET?
However, Parker said, “that doesn’t mean I have to vote for her.”Parker said she’s definitely voting for Obama, and she’s unsure about the U.S. Senate race. She said McMahon does not support the social services she relies on: “She’s not for food stamps and stuff.” FOOD STAMPS AND STUFF!
Sad state of affairs. This woman takes a job supporting someone who will end the programs she relies on, which is understandable I suppose if she needs the money badly enough….but then to be undecided about whom to vote for? That is just sad.
posted by: Bill Saunders on November 6, 2012 4:23pm
One of these young, black women came to my door last week, stumping for Linda.
“I hope she’s paying you,” I said.
“Yeah, it’s a job,“she replied.
“You know that you are working against your own self interests?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Probably aren’t going to have much luck in this neighborhood, ” i said.
“I know,” she said, “but it’s a job.
Maybe this tactic is backfiring badly. This is the first time I have ever had to wait on a line to vote in my ward..
posted by: JMS on November 6, 2012 4:39pm
Yes this is all very sad but not because of anything to do with Natasha Parker and her voting preferences, opinions, etc. She is probably just trying to make a buck. What is truly sad and not to be overlooked or brushed aside while getting side tracked criticizing Ms. Parker is this deliberate, demographically targeted, offensive and pathetic attempt at voter confusion by the McMahon campaign. Shame on them. This may be the most blatantly underhanded and despicable campaign tactic I have seen to date.
posted by: PH on November 6, 2012 4:46pm
McMahon is desperate and pathetic. This is a low level, even for a woman who encourages people to run around in tights and pretend to smash people over the heads with chairs.
posted by: FromTheHill on November 6, 2012 4:50pm
I am stunned…This is the strangest race i have ever seen. Linda McMahon wants it so bad she will stab her own party in the back and use poor people to help her then most likely forget about them on Nov 7. God help us if she gets in, what will become of this state. Chris Murphy’s commercials are true. McMahon is in it for herself.
posted by: Bill Saunders on November 6, 2012 4:53pm
It’s even more despicable than that… Mcmahon endorses Obama, AND hires young black women to spread her urban myth of being pro-minority, pro-jobs, and pro woman.
Just plain gross.
posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 6, 2012 4:58pm
Mimicking SEIU’s purple t-shirts? Deliberately trying to confuse “low-information” voters? Playing up fears of the voter fraud boogeyman?
Vile and crass… and ultimately a reminder of the true Linda McMahon.
If this succeeds and McMahon wins, I think the real tragedy is that the Murphy campaign has not done a better job of running a campaign.
Who was in charge of his New Haven efforts? Who got the volunteers together?
posted by: JMS on November 6, 2012 5:23pm
What would happen if she actually won? The horror. Hopefully not. But if she did win does she think her party will play nice with her after this kind of stunt (does she even care)? Imagine how much more good she could have done for Connecticut if she had directed the over $100 million dollars she has thrown into these two campaigns towards something more productive and responsible. The irony is if she did that people might actually come to like her and… duh… vote for her. Money can’t buy logic.
posted by: JMS on November 6, 2012 5:28pm
Thinking back over the last few months I have received quite a bit of Murphey campaign info by mail, phone and also some street canvasing… not to mention TV ads. Last night I caught a prime time TV endorsement from President Obama. So I think he is doing a pretty good job getting the word out. Still I imagine it’s hard to match the campaign spending of the McMahon campaign and clearly I don’t think anyone was prepared for this kind of sleazy maneuver.
posted by: robn on November 6, 2012 5:30pm
Its actually pretty brilliant and also devious. Just the choice of the t-shirt color alone deserves an Emmy for her campaign managers. Chris Murphy should try and get some of those people working for him on the next campaign because his own campaign managers let this happen to them. BTW, Linda didn’t endorse Obama, she suggested that Obama supporters also support Linda MacMahon.
posted by: Dee Rien on November 6, 2012 5:35pm
I wonder how many Republican votes she’ll LOSE because they think she’s supporting Obama?
posted by: robn on November 6, 2012 5:49pm
She’ll lose zero Republican votes because they’re smart enough not to employ that strategy in Greenwich or North Haven.
posted by: darnell on November 6, 2012 6:05pm
It’s sad that all of you folks are berating this young lady for trying to make money to make ends meet. The facts are that the Democrats aren’t paying her or all of the other folks working the streets the last few weeks and the polls today for McMahon. The Democrats did it to themselves for ignoring these people. Why haven’t the Dems developed a jobs program on the local, state or federal level for New Haven residents, particularly for black youth who are experiencing unemployment at unprecedented levels? Why didn’t the presidential, senate, congressional and state candidates not get together and hire all of these folks? The Dems are spending a lot of money, but not on these folks.
I hope the McMahon tactic doesn’t work because Obama needs all he help he can get in Congress, even though my guess is that Murphy will begin playing games as soon as he gets elected, and will certainly forget those poor folks canvassing for McMahon for the next six years, or until it is time for him to need them to go to the polls.
But I hope the Dems learned a valuable lesson from the McMahon campaign, if she were more generally liked, or Obama wasn’t on the ballot, black folks would show their distaste for being ignored by voting for the “other guy”.
posted by: Claudia Herrera on November 6, 2012 6:26pm
This morning I was knocking doors around my neighborhood and that’s exactly what I was explaining to all the people I was able to talk to, Obama IS NOT endorsing or suggesting he will work with Linda. This is her tactic to confuse people. I did my best specially with the Latino community hopefully people will make their own choices. I have to say it was so much advertising from McMahon and even worst, some people say to me but she’s woman and she will understand OUR ISSUES BETTER. Like I said I explained again that McMahon was and is not a team player with Obama.
posted by: Wildwest on November 6, 2012 8:57pm
Please Darnell do not pin the problem of black youths on politicians. We can play the blame game all day long but when it comes to Murphy vs McMahon she is outspending him by leaps and bounds, piss poor ethics and all.
This seems wrong enough to be illegal to me, maybe its just another legal loophole for the 1% to take advantage of.
posted by: Noteworthy on November 6, 2012 9:09pm
This is not despicable - it’s masterful - from the colors of the shirts to having a presence int he belly of the Demo machine; to admitting what everyone knows - that Obama will win the state. So why not? It’s beautiful and these people all get paid and from reports, get paid well. What I love best of all - turnout to vote has been very high. Bravo to all who voted!
posted by: HhE on November 6, 2012 10:04pm
Darnell, your comment leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not sure I can put it sunsinkly, but I will try.
It is like you are ying to Mitt Romney’s yang. He talks about a 47% of Americans being dependent on the government, and you talk of a Democratic party that has failed to employ black youth en mass.
posted by: darnell on November 6, 2012 10:10pm
@MikeM - it is wrong for this woman to make a dollar, but not for all those consultants, spokespeople, etc. to make their living off of these campaigns? I’m not pinning the black youth issue on politicians alone, but they sure deserve their share of the blame. When I was a youth, we had politician who fought to bring resources and youth programs to their areas. I participated in CETA, a youth employment program that hired ALL eligible kids; the youth centers in every neighborhood; along with many other activities. Not anymore. In New Haven, 68% of the employees at City Hall DO NOT live in New Haven, the average city employee salary is $52,000. The average household income in New Haven is $29,000. Poor people are paying the salaries of middle class folks who live elsewhere. Look at the management of New Haven, and then look at how similar many of the names are. These folks are making sure that their kids are being hired, while poor children see their parents unemployed, and expect their fate to be the same. And don’t give me this crap about their being plenty of jobs available, because it is not true, especially for the unemployed. Recent studies have shown that employers do not hire the unemployed.
So tell me, who do we blame?
posted by: darnell on November 6, 2012 10:41pm
Nice try HhE, but you missed the basket by a mile. I guess in your and Mitt Romney’s world, everything is fine when the government is giving trillions of dollars to bank executives, stock brokers, oil dealers, weapon dealers and contractors in Iraq and other countries, just to name a few; but when the recipients of government largess through work programs are our youth, particularly black youth and poor people, then it is government dependency.
I suppose that in your world, the USA spending $3 trillion for the war in Iraq is a good thing, and didn’t spur dependency among a variety of players. In my world, those $3 trillion would have been spent on families here in New Haven, building roads, reforming schools,saving homes from foreclosure, well, I think you get the drift.
Do you still have that bad taste in your mouth?
posted by: HhE on November 6, 2012 11:36pm
Blame is cheep, easy, and useless. Blame allows one not to take responsibility, while lawyers make money. Blame gets in the way of solving problems. I have no time or use for blame.
Yes, that bad taste is still in my mouth, and now some of it is stuck between my teeth.
For the record, I voted for President Obama. I find Mitt Romney to be sans moral center—which in my world makes him not even human. I am the Uber WASP, and I have one foot in East Rock, but I also have one foot in Newhallville.
My point was that by bemoaning the failure of the Democratic party to create employment as you did, your words dovetail nicely with the Romney message of it is the morally right thing to end social programs so the rich can get richer.
I think a review of my posts from the last year or more would make clear that “Nice try HhE, but you missed the basket by a mile. I guess in your and Mitt Romney’s world, everything is fine when the government is giving trillions of dollars to bank executives, stock brokers, oil dealers, weapon dealers and contractors in Iraq and other countries, just to name a few; but when the recipients of government largess through work programs are our youth, particularly black youth and poor people, then it is government dependency.
I suppose that in your world, the USA spending $3 trillion for the war in Iraq is a good thing, and didn’t spur dependency among a variety of players. ” is rather wide of the mark.
The danger here, and you seam to be blind to it, is that this tactic of employing people to stump for a candidate that they not only not support, but who is a threat to programs that these just trying to make a buck employees depend on, might tip the balance in this close and critical race.
Your word and her acts distress me because I find them to be a threat to the well being of our city’s underclass.
posted by: darnell on November 7, 2012 12:19am
HhE, you’re the one who is wide off the mark. It was you who tried to slickly associate me with Mitt Romney, when I clearly support MY President, Barack Obama. My record speaks for itself, I fought tooth and nail for the underclass, as well as fought to provide equality to empower those folks, who many lived in the ward I represented. The threat to our city’s underclass comes from the folks who pretend to represent them, but continue to put on theatrics that in the end changes nothing. The city’s democrats have run this city for decades upon decades, yet poverty has increased under their rule. The unions claim to fight for the underclass, yet they were the organization that convinced the state legislature to outlaw residency for city government workers, which effectively began the decline in underclass employment in the city government. It was the democrats who oversee a public school system that was called a “drop out factory” by a national study. It is the democrats who control a New Haven Board of Aldermen that oversees a government that forecloses on more homes than banks, and tows more cars of local residents who can least afford it. It is a democratic governor who raised taxes on everything, including he kitchen sink, again on folks who can the least afford it, while providing millions of dollars to big businesses in forms of tax breaks and corporate welfare.
Sir, or madam, it is not me or my words that are a threat to poor folks in this town, it is you and others who continue to allow folks in power to continue to do absolutely nothing, just because they have a D in front of their names. I grew up in Newhaville and Dixwell, now live in West Rock, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. I bought my house in WR because I love the state park, and because I haven’t forgotten where I came from. I don’t have one foot in, I have both.
Yeah, I’m putting the blame where it belongs, with the folks that have the power to make change, and continue to piss away that power by having these stupid and useless power struggles that do nothing to change he lives of the underclass. I have spent my entire life fighting the powers, when I was on the BOA I was oftentimes alone.
posted by: Bill Saunders on November 7, 2012 2:55am
Well, Linda got a whopping 35 votes in my ward (23), 2.4%. 1402 other people just thought different. Smackdown!
posted by: darnell on November 7, 2012 3:08am
Just watched MY President, inspiring.
@ Streever, Yes, I supported and actively campaigned for her two years ago.
No, I did not support her this go around. I did not work for any candidate besides President Obama.
She reached out to me and we had a two hour lunch a ways back. I liked her, she is very personable and “normal”. She also made commitments to my community. It was more than the other candidate had done.
I still like her, I think she is an independent thinker, but I had to support MY president’s agenda, which needs a majority congress to get done…couldn’t screw around with that.
posted by: HhE on November 7, 2012 8:57am
Fortunately, Congressman Murphy won, and so in-spite of worries, we can call him Senator Murphy soon.
Darnell, I agree with much in your last post. Which is why I do not belong to any political party, and do not blindly support unions as some sort of magically inherently good institution.
However, my original position still stands. Much like the NRA and Handgun Control Inc; two polar organizations that need each other. Without the Brady Bunch trying to take away our gun rights, how could the NRA raise all that money to pay its salaries? Without the evil Gun Lobby try to arm our children, how can Hand Gun Control Inc raise money? Mitt Romney needed people to advocate for the government/democratic party to come down from on high and create employment and other entitlement programs to create his myth of a moocher class, so he could sell his (evil) message of “love of country does not mean loving one’s fellow American.”
How you conclude that I support ill conceived military interventions, bonuses for Wall Street (instead of the perp walks), and all that, I have no idea.
(For what it is worth, it is Sir and not Madam; H stands for Harold.)
posted by: brain_stringcheese on November 7, 2012 11:31am
last week i got a call in my office from “John” from such and such organization asking if they can be sure they had my vote for “LISA McMahon” next week, and I said “Lisa?” he said, yes “Lisa McMahon” I couldn’t contain my laughter and then he hung up. It’s funny when your campaign solely runs on money, and your “supporters” wouldn’t support you otherwise. Looks like everything turned out ok though.
posted by: JMS on November 7, 2012 12:14pm
posted by: Newhavenadvocate on November 7, 2012 11:12pm
“If this succeeds and McMahon wins, I think the real tragedy is that the Murphy campaign has not done a better job of running a campaign.
Who was in charge of his New Haven efforts? Who got the volunteers together?”