AFL-CIO declines to endorse a DNC chair

The AFL-CIO yesterday decided not to endorse a candidate in the Democratic National Committee race, removing one of the last firewalls that could have prevented former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean from winning the chairmanship.

The non-endorsement from the umbrella labor group led former Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas), who was banking on labor’s support to emerge as the anti-Dean candidate, to drop out of the race yesterday, a Frost aide said. Former Ohio party chairman David Leland also bowed out of the race yesterday, and he endorsed Dean.
Patrick G. Ryan
Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) has two fewer opponents in the race to lead the DNC.


“I appreciate the ongoing support our campaign is receiving. I want to thank Congressman Martin Frost and Chairman David Leland for lending their ideas and vision to this race,” Dean said in a statement yesterday. “The Democratic Party is well served by what these two individuals brought to the debate.”

Dean continued: “While I am encouraged by the news of the day, this race is still not over. I continue to call DNC members to hear their ideas from my office in Burlington, and I remain committed to securing additional support from all levels of the Democratic Party.”

Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler’s campaign claimed victory in labor’s non-endorsement, suggesting that had labor been fully supportive of Dean it would have issued its outright support.

“The AFL denied Dean their endorsement today. That confirms what we’ve been saying, and that’s that this is a two-person race,” Fowler aide Kirsten Powers said, adding that only a third of the voters have committed to a candidate.

Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler, former Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) and New Democrat Network President Simon Rosenberg were still in the race at press time.

“We’re talking to our friends and supporters,” Rosenberg spokesman Guillermo Meneses said. “Simon has always said he wants to play a meaningful role in the emerging dialogue in the party. We’re moving forward at this time.”

The AFL-CIO did wade into the vice-chairman race, endorsing Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) over fellow Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), former Puerto Rico Secretary of the Governorship and DNC Hispanic Caucus Chairman Alvaro Cifuentes, former DNC Hispanic Caucus Chairman Nelson Diaz and DNC Deputy Chairman Ben Johnson for the one slot that is available for a male to fill.

The Honda endorsement was intended to slow support for Cifuentes, who is emerging as the candidate to beat, labor sources said.

“A lot of it has to do with the relationship I’ve had with labor over the years,” Honda said, adding, “What it tells the members of the DNC is that the AFL-CIO political counsel thinks that I am well-suited for this job.”

Honda continues to garner support from a diverse array of Democratic interest groups, causing some supporters of rival candidates to cry foul.

Honda’s earlier support from nearly all the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has touched off debate within the caucus over the propriety of endorsing candidates.

A handful of congressional Hispanics are upset with their colleagues for signing a letter in support of Honda that appears to have the imprimatur of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).

While the letter is not on official CHC letterhead, the text reads, “We in the CHC are fortunate to have developed a special relationship with Mike, and we are impressed by Mike’s own long and special relationship with the Hispanic community.”

“See, that should not have been in there,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). We are a nonpartisan, nonpolitical group. We shouldn’t be getting out there on issues like this.”

Sanchez said a number of her colleagues, including Reps. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), would seek a meeting with CHC Chairwoman Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) to discuss the matter further.

“We need to have a meeting to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” Loretta Sanchez said.

But a Napolitano aide insisted that the letter was not an official act of the CHC and that individual Hispanic lawmakers signed it on their own. And Honda said that he organized the letter himself, without any official backing from the CHC.

But Meeks said that he took special steps to avoid the appearance that any endorsement from individuals in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) meant blanket CBC support. “Of course, I got every single one,” he said.