Pridemore gets big boost from labor

When it comes to labor support, the campaign for the 3rd Congressional District seat has been a seesaw for the two leading Democrats, Olympia entrepreneur Denny Heck and state Sen. Craig Pridemore.

On May 5, the Heck campaign announced key endorsements from the Machinists Union and Local 77 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. On the same day, Pridemore got the backing of the Pulp and Paper Workers Union. And so it has gone in this hotly contested race.

But Pridemore scored a big one over the weekend when the Washington State Labor Council’s political arm gave him its endorsement. Nearly 400 delegates representing the council’s 400 affiliated unions met at the council’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) convention in Seattle and heard from congressional, statewide and judicial candidates.

The council’s unions represent a cumulative 450,000 members statewide, Candidates must win two-thirds of that membership vote in order to win COPE’s endorsement.

The endorsement for Pridemore “really came down to his voting record,” said labor council spokeswoman Kathy Cummings. “Craig Pridemore has a 98 percent voting record for labor. He has been a champion of labor’s causes throughout. In this year, especially, we really looked to pick out champions in the state Legislature who are going to stand up for good working people. Pridemore has demonstrated that time and time again.”

Heck served in the state House from 1977 to 1985, representing Clark County, before he resigned to become chief House clerk.

“Heck hasn’t been in the Legislature for a long time,” Cummings said. “When he was there, he had a voting record in the 70s. We like to see the the high 80s and 90s.”

In a roll call vote, Pridemore drew 96,000 votes to Heck’s 41,000. The numbers reflect the combined membership of the unions favoring each candidate.

The Labor Council pointedly did not endorse two Clark County Democrats, Tim Probst in the 17th District and Jim Jacks in the 49th. The council announced earlier that it would withhold support from Democratic legislators who voted for deep cuts in state programs during the 2010 legislative session.

“There is some contention in the ranks,” Cummings said. “In both those cases, they just didn’t reach the two-thirds vote.”

COPE did endorse incumbent Rep. Jim Moeller in the 49th and Monica Stonier, a middle school teacher active in the Washington Education Association who is running for an open 17th District seat. It also endorsed Dennis Kampe, director of the Clark County Skills Center, the lone Democrat in the crowded race for an open 18th District seat.

Unions, especially those representing public employees, have been under siege this year, Cummings said. “State employees turned out more delegates to his convention than they ever have.”

COPE’s endorsement will bring campaign contributions, but it will bring much more, Cummings said.

“When candidates get a full endorsement, they get boots on the ground, people who will go out and knock on doors and make phone calls.”

The labor council is creating its own political action committee this year and will control its contributions more directly than before, Cummings said.

It’s called the DIME PAC, which stands for “Don’t Invest in More Excuses.”

Kathie Durbin

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