Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Baer: Dems for guv and the union label

From today's Daily News:

Among questions surrounding the oh-so-open Democratic race to pick an opponent to Gov. Corbett is whether, and how much, organized labor helps determine the eventual choice.

With eight announced candidates, so far, there is no clear favorite.

And while union support can be critical, much of labor is undecided.

That presents the same knotty issue candidates face in fundraising: Traditional sources of reliable backing are torn, diffused or staying neutral.

For some it's a question of wanting to be with a winner and having no idea who emerges by the May primary.

For others it's a matter of holding resources for November's General Election.

Arguably, four of the eight Democrats are best positioned to win the primary. Two of those are getting the most support from labor.

Best-positioned are Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, state Treasurer Rob McCord, former Environmental Secretary Katie McGinty and former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf.

Racking up labor backing are Schwartz and McCord.

McCord, who's twice won statewide, holds an edge in union member numbers.

He's backed by Teamsters, AFSCME Council 13, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1776, the International Union of Operating Engineers, two IBEW locals in Central Pa., among others.

But Schwartz gains ground this evening when she formally picks up IBEW Local 98 - along with $200,000 - at a fundraiser at the union's Spring Garden Street hall.

The Philly local has about 5,000 members and a track record of influencing statewide races.

"We have a lot of friends running," said Local 98 boss John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, "but the choice is clear . . . her voting record is tremendous."

Schwartz also is backed by Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, United Mine Workers and Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, among others.

McGinty, a Philly native working hard in Western Pennsylvania, is endorsed by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, Pittsburgh.

And Wolf, whose York County 170-year-old family cabinetry company employs roughly 250 non-union, profit-sharing workers, is backed by IBEW Local 299, York.

But some big unions are sitting it out.

"All of the candidates have a strong record of supporting workers," says Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

The mega-union hasn't endorsed and might not do so. Bloomingdale says endorsement requires two-thirds support of the union's executive council, adding "No candidate right now has two-thirds of the votes."

The state's largest teacher union, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), also looks likely to take a pass. PSEA president Mike Crossey has said he expects the union, known for big political giving, to stay out of the primary.

This mix of some in, some out could matter.

Unions offer ground troops, phone volunteers, petition gatherers and money.

Their in-or-out decisions could provide or retard candidate momentum.

None of the best-positioned candidates is a household name. They are ideologically akin. Each is likely to raise or have enough money to compete. As such, little things can be important.

McCord spokesman Mark Nevins says unions help ID voters and get them out, adding that in a tight race "a small number of votes might make a difference."

Schwartz spokesman Mark Bergman says IBEW's endorsement shows the southeast coalescing around Schwartz, who's also backed by City Democratic Committee.

But if eight stay in (and one or two more get in), someone can win with a small percentage of the usually low primary vote.

Second-tier candidates - former Environmental Secretary John Hanger, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, Cumberland County minister Max Myers - will get some of that vote.

(Pawlowski, by the way, is backed by Ironworkers Local 420, Reading, and IBEW 375, Allentown; Hanger's endorsed by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, not a union but worth a mention.)

So union involvement in a tight, crowded race could prove determinative - question is for whom?