*This article was originally published at The Left Shue
On Saturday, May 15th delegates to the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) met at the labor organization’s C.O.P.E. (Committee on Political Education) convention to vote on their endorsements for the 2010 campaign. While many have seen this event as a sort of kumbaya moment for Labor and incumbent Democrats in the past, recent legislative setbacks for Labor and the emergence of the new “DIME-PAC”; established to more effectively target labor friendly candidates, helped to produce more than a couple of surprises. The shift in Labor’s approach was explained in a recent report by WSLC Political Director, Benjamin Lawver entitled, “Things have changed” published on the organization’s website.
“After the 2009 session, when labor’s agenda was not only ignored but also attacked by the Democratic majority caucuses, the Washington State Labor Council’s affiliated unions instituted a complete review of the organization’s political program.<BR>
One of the key changes adopted was to establish a more comprehensive system of evaluating the performance of incumbent state legislators, given that voting records don’t always explain who is truly advocating for working families or opposing their interests. This is necessary because it has become common practice for caucus leaders to “protect” their members by either denying votes on important working family legislation or by blocking recorded roll-call votes on the floor.
That’s why, beginning this year, the Washington State Labor Council’s Legislative Voting Records will also include candidate scores for bill sponsorship, caucus and floor advocacy, and community support for labor’s activities. These additional scores, along with the local-level questionnaire, interview and recommendation process conducted by the Central Labor Councils, will all be considered by delegates considering WSLC election endorsements at our C.O.P.E. (Committee on Political Education) Convention on May 15 and any additional endorsements that may occur at the WSLC Constitutional Convention on Aug. 9-12 in Tacoma.”
In his report, Lawver also goes on to explain the purpose of WSLC’s new “DIME-PAC”.
“In the past, the WSLC and many of its affiliates have made significant contributions to caucus campaign committees and to incumbent legislators who were not facing serious election challenges. Those contributions are often used by caucus leadership to fund activities that benefit individual legislators who work against the interests of our members.
To make sure that only those legislators who stand up for working families receive our financial support, the WSLC created the “Don’t Invest In More Excuses” Political Action Committee (DIME PAC) for unions to target campaign contributions more strategically.”
Perhaps nowhere in the state was the impact of these changes felt more significantly than in Snohomish County where the three incumbent Democratic State Senators (Paull Shin – 21LD, Jean Berkey – 38LD, Steve Hobbs – 44LD) seeking re-election were passed over by the Labor delegates. The one thing that all three have in common that would explain their Labor snubbing is their shared membership in the recently formed “Roadkill Caucus”. The caucus, founded late in the 2010 legislative session by Sen. Hobbs, was described by WSLC President, Rick Bender, in a recent post for the WSLC Legislative Report:
“…But this year, something different emerged, masquerading as moderate. It’s a group of Democrats calling themselves the Roadkill Caucus. They espouse a pro-corporate, anti-government agenda. They use the same rhetoric Republicans use about Washington having a horrible business climate, about the need to “reduce government’s footprint,” and even labeling their fellow party members as “too liberal.” They pit constituencies against each other — rural areas vs. Seattle — in open defiance of the party’s theme of “One Washington.”
True moderates espouse their party’s traditional values but occasionally disagree with their leaders’ positions and agenda. The Roadkill Caucus is a group of lawmakers attempting to move their party’s already-centrist agenda to the right, in open opposition to their party’s base constituencies…”
While Shin and Berkey are currently running unopposed (where the lack of a Labor endorsement may not have any effect on their re-election bids), Hobbs, as I have previously detailed here, not only faces two Republican challengers but also a re-match with his 2006 Democratic Primary opponent, Lillian Kaufer. In a total reversal of fortune from that year, Kaufer walked away Saturday with the sole endorsement of the WSLC for the position of 44th LD State Senator. In 2006 it was Kaufer with all the backing of the local and county Democratic Party organizations along with the backing of regional environmental and other Progressive groups. Many believe that it was the massive GOTV effort on the part of the WSLC however that turned the tide in Hobbs’ 600 plus winning vote margin in the primary.
The other Snohomish County WSLC endorsements are as follows:
House Pos. 1 — Derek Stanford
House Pos. 2 — Luis Moscoso
House Pos. 1 — Mary Helen Roberts
House Pos. 2 — Marco Liias
House Pos. 1 — Cindy Ryu
Senate — Maralyn Chase
House Pos. 1 — John McCoy
House Pos. 2 — Mike Sells
House Pos. 1 — Hans Dunshee
The remainder of the Congressional, State-wide, Legislative, and Ballot Initiative endorsements can be found on the WSLC website here: http://www.wslc.org/reports/2010/May/15.htm