An election for the ages

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As business owners, AAHOA members nationwide have an obligation to cast informed, thoughtful votes this fall.

By Brandon VerVelde

As Americans head to the voting booths this November, the future and direction of the country will be in their hands – more so than an average year.

Not only is the country guaranteed to have a new president, but he or she will also have a seat on the Supreme Court to fill.

Deepening the impact of this election, the new president’s Supreme Court nominee is subject to confirmation by the Senate, and the partisan control of the chamber is also up for grabs this fall. The makeup of the Senate could determine the fate of a nominee, especially if the majority is held by a different party than the president.

As columnist Evan Berryhill summarizes, “This election will have a substantial impact on all three branches of government the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time… and this may in fact be the most important election in many, many years.”

As business owners, AAHOA members nationwide not only have an obligation to vote in their best interest but also to cast informed, thoughtful votes.

At the top of every ballot will be the election for president of the United States. The two major-party candidates are Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

Trump: The nontraditional politician
Trump is only the second nominee in Republican Party history who never held elective office or any high-ranking government position. He is the owner of The Trump Organization – including his iconic Trump Hotels – and is the former star of the reality television show The Apprentice.

Trump’s campaign theme is simply “Make America Great Again.” At his campaign rallies, Trump speaks often of reviving the economy and creating jobs through pro-business policies and renegotiating trade deals with other countries.

Trump has shown an ability to bypass the traditional media standards and prides himself on flouting “political correctness.”

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either,” Trump said.

Perhaps Trump’s biggest but unspoken campaign theme is the direction of country. According to polling data collected by Real Clear Politics, an overwhelming majority of Americans feel the country is off on the wrong track. Being entirely new to politics, Trump is selling himself as the only candidate who can take the country in a new direction.

Clinton: A long history in the public eye
Unlike her opponent, Hillary Clinton had a more traditional path into politics. By her husband Bill Clinton’s side, she was First Lady of the state of Arkansas and First Lady of the United States. She was elected to two terms to the Senate from New York and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. She then served for four years as Secretary of State under Obama.

Clinton’s campaign theme is “Stronger Together.” According to her campaign, she supports policies that will make the American economy more inclusive, such as raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour and increasing access to capital for small businesses.

“We’re stronger when every family in every community knows they’re not on their own, because we’re all in this together,” said Clinton. “If we stand together, if we work together, we’ll all rise together. We’ll be stronger together.”

While Clinton emphasizes that change and reforms are still needed, she has largely tied herself to Obama’s presidency, vowing to “defend and expand” Obamacare, for example. Americans generally approve of the president’s job performance, and that’s what Clinton is trying to capitalize on.

Control of the Senate at stake
The Republicans’ slim 54-46 seat majority in the Senate is being vigorously challenged by the Democrats, and the math is in the latter’s favor.

Eleven seats are considered to be competitive this fall, and only one is being defended by Democrats. The remaining 10 have put Republicans on defense throughout the country, with their control of the Senate at stake.

Two key races for both sides are Sen. Pat Toomey’s re-election fight in Pennsylvania and the Democratic pickup opportunity by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Florida) against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

Sen. Pat Toomey
Toomey, a Republican, faces Democrat Katie McGinty in a race to win the favor of the diverse Pennsylvanian electorate.

AAHOA PAC and local AAHOA members have supported Toomey for his vocal opposition to proposals that would hurt small business, especially Obamacare. Toomey has voted to repeal the healthcare law and replace it with patient-centered, free-market reform.

“Instead of having the federal government control healthcare decisions, dictate prices and essentially socialize the health-insurance industry,” Toomey wrote in a recent op-ed, “We can leverage the power of the marketplace to force greater competition and empower consumers to decide what works best for their families.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy
In Florida, Murphy opted to give up his House seat to run for what was originally an open seat as Rubio had decided to run for the Republican nomination for president instead. Rubio eventually re-entered the race after bowing out of the presidential contest.

Murphy has been supported by AAHOA PAC for his strong stances in favor of small business concerns, most notably the Commercial Real Estate and Economic Development (CREED) Act, which reauthorized the Small Business Administration’s loan guarantee program. Murphy’s sponsorship of the CREED Act helped move the issue to the forefront and the program was permanently reauthorized in 2015.

“Startups and small businesses are the most efficient jobs creators in the United States,” said Murphy. “But the greatest single bottleneck preventing these businesses from taking off is access to capital.”

The control of the House is less up for grabs, with the Republicans holding a strong 247-186 majority over the Democrats. Nonetheless, individual races are hotly contested by both sides and a wave election where a large number of incumbents lose is never out of the question.

On the watch: Rep. Tim Walberg and Rep. Scott Peters
Two key races for AAHOA are the re-election efforts of Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-California).

Walberg is a key ally of AAHOA’s in the House. He chairs the Labor Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, one of the most important subcommittees and committees in Congress for hoteliers’ priorities.

Walberg has authored one of AAHOA’s top legislative priorities in the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act. The bill stops the implementation of the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule, which will severely hurt salaried workers’ opportunities for promotion.

“Because of this rule, many Americans will soon realize they have fewer jobs prospects, less flexibility in the workplace and fewer opportunities to climb the economic ladder,” said Walberg. “What the American people deserve is a balanced approach that will strengthen employee safeguards, eliminate employer confusion and uncertainty, and encourage growth and prosperity for those working hard to make a living.”

AAHOA members call Peters a close friend and ally for his sponsorship of pro-small business bills in Congress, including the bill to curb frivolous lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Peters has also taken the time to understand the challenges small businesses face, hotels in particular. Earlier this year, he took part in a back of the house tour of a Holiday Inn Express & Suites with owner and AAHOA member Bobby Patel, learning what it takes to run a hotel, from checking in a guest to turning over a room.

AAHOA President and CEO Chip Rogers commented that Peters is a “hands-on congressman who deeply cares about his constituents.”       ■

Brandon VerVelde is the director of State and Local Government Affairs for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and can be reached at brandon@aahoa.com.

If you care, get involved
Casting a vote for your candidate of choice is just the first step in being involved in the political process. If you really care about the direction of our country and specific challenges you face as a small business owner, here’s how you can get more involved.

  1. Donate. Campaigns are expensive. There are yard signs, mailers and ads to buy. Whether it’s to AAHOA PAC or directly to a candidate’s campaign, your donation of $1 or $1,000 will help the cause.
  2. Place a yard sign. Your property can be a billboard for your candidate. Contact the campaign and ask for a yard sign to indicate your support and to spread the word.
  3. Volunteer. Campaigns consist of hundreds of volunteers and supporters. There’s lots to do, from placing yard signs to walking in parades to canvassing neighborhoods. You’ll not only support your cause, but you’ll also meet people who are all working toward the same goal.
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