PA AFL-CIO: No Endorsement for Governor

Big labor doesn’t endorse in race for governor; backs Saidel

Pennsylvania’s organized labor community can’t come to a consensus in the four-way Democratic primary for governor.

The state AFL-CIO, the state’s largest umbrella union organization, overwhelmingly endorsed former Philadelphia City Controller Jonathan Saidel for Lieutenant during a meeting of its executive committee over the weekend in Pittsburgh. But no top-ticket candidate was able to garner the two-thirds vote needed for a formal endorsement.

An AFL-CIO official couldn’t be reached for comment. But a labor insider said the votes were, for the most part, “well distributed” between Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Auditor General Jack Wagner, with Onorato faring well with the building trades and Wagner finding support from public employee unions. Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel also found patches of support.

“They just couldn’t muster it,” the labor insider said of the vote. “No one could get to two thirds.”

The upshot is that no candidate in the race will benefit from the full organizational strength that the AFL-CIO brings to statewide races. While one insider framed it as a setback for Onorato because he has been unable to “close the deal,” it can just as easily be seen as a defeat for Wagner. With significantly less campaign cash than Onorato, Wagner has a greater need for the labor-backed ground game.

“Honestly, the guy in the race with the best labor record is Hoeffel,” the labor insider said. “It’s just a viability question with him, and they weren’t ready to make that leap. But no one doesn’t like Joe.”

It’s been clear for weeks that the labor community is split in the race to succeed Gov. Ed Rendell.

In addition to backing Saidel, who is increasingly seen as the presumptive Democratic nominee, the AFL-CIO also endorsed numerous state House and state Senate candidates.

“These candidates have displayed their leadership and their support on issues that matter most to the working people of Pennsylvania—issues that improve living standards and promote a better quality of life for all,” state AFL-CIO president Bill George said in a statement.

April 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

Dan Hirschhorn

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