Fifty shades of blue, purple and red

Political geography quiz time: What’s deep blue inside the Beltway, purple in the suburbs surrounding the nation’s capital then turns red toward the south and blue going north?

If you guessed the correct answer as the political complexion of the government’s 5 million active and retired civil servants you may be on the right track. And that would be a surprise to a lot of people who don’t work for the government but think they understand those who do.

A lot of people believe that career civil servants are Democrats. Period. Many have held that belief for a long time. And you can understand why they think that. With very few exceptions, federal and postal unions regularly endorse the Democratic candidate for President. Most of the House and Senate members they support (in public) are also Democrats.

Some years back, a very political director of the Office of Personnel Management said he thought that the politics of federal workers was similar to their neighbors where they live. “In D.C., government workers vote Democratic.” he said.” In Anniston, Alabama, or Ogden, Utah, they vote Republican.” Many big cities are solidly Democratic, while their suburbs are more Republican. Washington, D.C., and Maryland are the two bluest voting blocs in the nation. Yet, Maryland surprised a lot of people by electing a Republican governor. Just across the Potomac River in Virginia, the GOP held on to the hotly contested House seat vacated by long-time pro-fed Rep. Frank Wolf.

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So are federal workers really Democrats or do they tend to vote like their neighbors?

Janet Kopenhaver of the national group Federally Employed Women believes it is dead wrong to assume feds regularly vote for one party over the other. “I think it’s a toss up,” she said.

When she joined FEW in 2003, Kopenhaver said, “I came in with that assumption” that most feds were Democrats. “Then I started getting feedback on social issues (many members) said we don’t agree with health-care reform or higher taxes.” She said Democrats in Congress seem more supportive of federal workers and cited the recent 3.8 percent pay raise proposal introduced by an all- Democratic lineup in Congress.

The all-feds-are-Democrats thing “may be a stereotype of (federal) unions” but doesn’t reflect the federal workforce. But she said that seems to be the view “not only from legislators, but also from the general public.”

Today at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio show, we’ll talk about the politics of feds. If you have thoughts, comments or questions, email them to me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

Where Feds Vote: Although D.C. is headquarters for most federal agencies, only about 14 percent of the government workforce is in this area. California, Texas, Florida and other states have lots of active and retired feds. To see how many feds there are in your state, and congressional district, click here.

Worried about the Trump administration's proposed cuts to federal retirement? Find out what these 100 members of Congress have to say about it.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Michael O’Connell

The human eye can distinguish about 450 shades of gray.

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