Dem primaries

Dem primaries

AFL-CIO plans aggressive push for Halter in Arkansas runoff

The AFL-CIO said Wednesday that it would wage a "very aggressive" campaign in the runoff election between Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and her Democratic primary challenger.

The labor group said it would spend what it needs to in order to help Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter unseat Lincoln in a Democratic primary challenge.

"We're in it to win it," AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman said in a conference call Wednesday. "We are certainly ready and able to spend whatever we need to do on behalf of Halter."

The union said it saw a "real victory for working people" in last night's Arkansas primary, in which neither Lincoln nor Halter received 50 percent of the vote, forcing a June 8 runoff primary between the two.

The AFL-CIO and other labor groups poured millions into the race on Halter's behalf, angered by Lincoln's stance on healthcare reform legislation and a union organizing bill, among other issues.

Ackerman also hailed the victory for Democrats in Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district, and downplayed incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) loss in a Democratic primary. She said that local AFL-CIO officials had decided to back Specter, in part due to their years of support for him.

But she said that their focus had shifted to Arkansas, where they will commit resources to Halter, though Ackerman wouldn't put a price tag on the amount.

"We figure that it is very important to take a stand against incumbents or candidates who are not sympathetic to the needs of working people, and who have not really proven themselves to fight for the economic security of working people," she said.

Cross-posted from the Briefing Room.


Obama endorses congressman who said Guam may 'capsize'

President Obama is endorsing the congressman who drew headlines recently for suggesting the island of Guam might "tip over and capsize."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Obama has endorsed Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who drew plenty of ridicule recently for this comment at a hearing.

Johnson has been battling Hepatitis C, which has made his speech slow and caused him to lose a lot of weight. But he has said he will press forward with serving in Congress.

At the same time, he has drawn primary challenges from former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes.

The endorsement of a black lawmaker in a majority-black district is a rare one for Obama. In 2008, he drew some heat from African-Americans for backing white Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) over a black state senator in Barrow's primary. That led black lawmakers facing their own primaries to wonder why he wasn't helping them.

The Johnson endorsement could set a precedent for other black lawmakers seeking the president's help this year.


Brunner gets some tough press in Ohio Senate primary

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has barely raised any money and is running behind Lee Fisher in the Ohio Democratic Senate primary. And now she's getting some bad press, too.

Brunner is enduring a series of hits on her candidacy roughly two weeks before her May 4 primary with Lt. Gov. Fisher.

On Wednesday, the Columbus Post-Dispatch revealed that she had been incorrectly listing employees and their salaries on her campaign finance reports (this is Ohio’s top elections' official we are talking about). And today, an alternative newspaper in Ohio reports that Brunner, in the late 1980s, represented a strip club in a court dispute over its liquor license.

Brunner defended her representation of the Crazy Horse Saloon by saying that its Constitutional rights had been infringed upon. The club was fighting a ballot proposition that effectively took its license away, and Brunner successfully argued that voters didn’t have the right to take away the license.

“I was starting my business at the time, I had three small children to support, and I was working solely on my own,” Brunner told the paper.

Despite Brunner’s justification, the story provides opponents with a ready-made campaign commercial if they need to use it. And the same goes for the FEC disclosure problems.

Fisher is the favorite, especially given that he banked $1.8 million at the end of March, while Brunner banked less than $80,000. But Democratic leaders are hoping he doesn’t have to deplete those funds before he gets to a general election matchup with former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has $7.6 million in the bank.

Job No. 1 is, of course, winning the primary at all.

Fisher has in recent days focused his public attacks on Portman. But he said on a conference call Wednesday that he is taking Brunner very seriously.

“I think that the primary is very competitive,” he said. “I continue to be focused on the issues that I think are as relevant in the primary as they are in the general election.”


Report: Rep. Lynch could face primary challenge from labor official

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), himself a former local union president, could be facing a primary challenge from a labor official from the Bay State.

The Boston Globe reported Monday that Mac D'Alessandro, a regional political director for the large service worker's union SEIU, is seriously weighing a run against the sixth term lawmaker, who was the only Massachusetts Democrat to vote against the Democrats' healthcare bill last month.

Here is more from the Globe:

D’Alessandro, who has worked for the Service Employees International Union for nine years, downplayed the role that Lynch’s health care vote played in his decision to jump into the race, saying instead that he wants to bring a different voice to Capitol Hill.

“This is a personal decision for me, as a constituent, as someone who has progressive values,’’ he said. “This isn’t part of me being recruited, no, this is my wanting a stronger voice for the district, for my family and the other families.’’

Asked if he would have voted in favor of Obama’s health care reform bill, he said, “Absolutely.’’

“I’m going to be on the side of consumers and workers, and not on the side of health insurance companies and big banks,’’ he said.

But for now, he said, he is focused on getting on the ballot. “We’ll have more to say once we do that,’’ he said.

State Democratic Party chairman John Walsh welcomed the announcement of a potential new candidate for the state’s Ninth Congressional District, which includes parts of Boston and extends south of the city into Norfolk, Plymouth, and Bristol counties.

“I think it’s a sign of a healthy party that there’s a discussion and a debate,’’ Walsh said.

D'Alessandro has until May 4 to collect the 2,000 signatures necessary to appear on the ballot. Lynch already faces two opponents already, one a Republican and the other an independent.

Some liberal activists have encouraged primary challengers to run against Democrats who voted against the healthcare bill, another sign that the massive $940 billion new law will play a major role in the fall midterm elections.

Walsh told the Globe that the challlenge would be an “uphill fight’’ for D’Alessandro, but said its result is not a foregone conclusion.


Specter gets big labor endorsement

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) earned a key endorsement from the Pennsylvania chapter of AFL-CIO in his bid for a sixth term.

The union was a key backer for Specter during his 2004 reelection campaign, when he was still a Republican. On Tuesday, it again backed him over a primary opponent -- Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).

Specter tweeted Tuesday from his verified account @SenArlenSpecter:

"Thank you, thank you, thank you, PA AFL-CIO. I'm proud to have your endorsement and support."

The former Republican has already received the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Poll numbers show the incumbent leading by a wide margin in the May 18 primary. Sestak has failed to build name recognition across the state at this point, but he had about $5 million in the bank at the end of the year.

Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R), the likely Republican nominee, is running neck-and-neck with Specter in the general election.

Cross-posted to the Twitter Room