Friday, January 18, 2008

A Note on Labor Endorsements in CD4

Here's a quick observation from a labor guy on union endorsements in the Wynn-Edwards race.

The labor movement has been unusually divided between the top two contenders in CD 4: Al Wynn, the incumbent and Donna Edwards, the returning challenger. Wynn's biggest labor endorsers are the MSTA/NEA funds (the state teachers), the Washington Metro AFL-CIO, the Maryland-DC AFL-CIO, SEIU Local 400 (Prince George's local schools employees), AFSCME Local 2250 (Prince George's government employees) and the Washington DC Building Trades. Edwards' endorsers include the national SEIU, the national UNITE-HERE, UFCW Local 400 (grocery workers) and Progressive Maryland. She has also earned important non-labor endorsements from NOW, the Sierra Club and Emily's List.

When labor unions endorse, they bring either money, people power or both. In the Wynn-Edwards race, both of the leading candidates have enough money to compete. And both of them already have lots of name recognition in the district. So the labor endorsements that will matter the most will come from unions that 1. have lots of members in the district, 2. can get their members to turn out, and 3. have volunteers that can handle other tasks on behalf of the campaigns, including communication with non-members.

On the Wynn side, the most meaningful endorsements come from the Teachers. Both MCEA and PGCEA use Apple Ballots in their campaigns. But there are real questions as to whether either Apple Ballot will be used for a federal race and whether either affiliate will truly work hard for Wynn. On the Edwards side, the most meaningful endorsements come from UFCW Local 400 (grocery workers), the national SEIU and especially Progressive Maryland. PM has a large email list and engages in plenty of door-to-door work. But it will have to be just as active in Prince George's as it usually is in Montgomery to maximize its impact for Edwards.

So my best guess is that if the Teachers go all-out for Wynn, he'll have the edge. If they don't, PM will give the edge to Donna Edwards. But labor support is only one small dimension in this race. The overriding factors will be the level of satisfaction with Wynn inside the district and the relative skill each side shows in getting turnout. And the minor candidates could drain a few votes from Edwards, though none has yet demonstrated real strength in the district.

Two other interesting facts stand out. First, the 7000-member UFCW Local 1994 (the MoCo government employees) has not endorsed either candidate. Second, it is extremely unusual for a local union (SEIU Local 400) to take an opposite position from its parent. I cannot recall this happening inside my union, where the international and the regional councils closely align. It is probably a sign of the unusual volatility and strong feelings in this particular race.

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