Union sees immigration reform as winning issue for Democrats

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will turn its attention from healthcare to immigration reform ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.

“We are stepping up our immigration reform efforts as a union-wide national campaign the same way we did for healthcare,” Javier Morillo, the union immigration campaign director, told The Ballot Box. “We are full-bore working on this. We are moving to get this done this year.”

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The union will use member education, canvassing and paid media as part of its effort.

One of the top priorities of the SEIU’s immigration reform “war room” is stopping the copycat bills similar to Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration measure that other states have introduced. “It’s about using it on [the GOP] side for short-term electoral gain,” he said.

Morillo noted 14 states have proposed similar legislation, including such midterm battlegrounds as Pennsylvania, Colorado, Missouri and Ohio.

“We’re taking on these Arizona copycat laws to make the case for why we need a comprehensive solution and that it can really only be done by the federal government,” he said.

Union officials and some conservative Democrats have expressed concern that taking up immigration reform could hurt the party’s chances in 2010, but Morillo said the opposite is true. “The politics of this are such that the Republican Party will relegate itself to minority status if they continue to do things like Arizona.”

Union members understand why immigration reform needs to happen, he added.

“Rooting out those who exploit our broken system for profit, that is important to all workers,” Morillo said. “Comprehensive immigration reform is just one key piece of something that needs to happen that will benefit all workers.”

The White House has reassured union officials it considers immigration reform a legislative priority, Morillo said.

“We’ve had assurances from the very beginning that they’re serious about getting it done,” he said. “The White House can’t move this alone, they understand this.”

—S.J.M.

McConnell laments defeat of ‘outstanding conservative’ in Bennett

Utah Republicans defeated an “outstanding conservative” in Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) this past weekend, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' MORE (Ky.) said Monday.

McConnell lamented Utah conservatives’ decision at a party convention on Saturday not to renominate Bennett as the GOP’s Senate candidate for the state.

“Utah — and the nation — has lost an outstanding conservative Republican senator,” McConnell said on ABC News’s “Top Line” webcast.

Bennett serves as a member of the Senate Republican leadership as counsel to McConnell, and is considered a top ally of the minority leader.

“It is the only state in the country where you don’t have a way to get on the ballot unless you go through a convention,” McConnell said, noting the unusual circumstance in which Bennett was defeated without a statewide primary vote.

In Utah, a nominating convention decides the party’s nominee. If a candidate receives 60 percent of the vote, he or she gets the nomination. Otherwise, the top two candidates get voted on in a statewide primary.
Republican delegates voted for businessman Tim Bridgewater and attorney Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing MORE ahead of Bennett, and those two will face off in a June 22 primary.

— Michael O’Brien

DCCC out of Hawaii special election

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is pulling out of the Hawaii special election for Rep. Neil Abercrombie’s (D) seat, effectively handing the seat to Republicans.

“The DCCC will not be investing additional resources in the [Hawaii] special election,” Jennifer Crider, a DCCC spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Local Democrats were unable to work out their differences. The DCCC will save the resources we would have invested in the Hawaii special election this month for the general election in November.”

The committee concluded there’s no way state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) can split the Democratic vote and still defeat Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R).

The committee spent more than $300,000 in the Hawaii race, according to a source.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said the DCCC’s involvement revealed a local party “in disarray.”

“The DCCC is giving up in a district as blue as this one due to their own blunders and a fed-up constituency that rejected their reckless agenda of higher taxes, negligent spending and government takeovers,” Joanna Burgos, an NRCC spokeswoman, said in a statement.

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Trump hits Romney for Mueller criticism Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' MORE won the district with 70 percent in 2008.

Hanabusa has been in third place in most polls of the three-way contest. National Democrats were sending the message to step aside through Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and his staff, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

But the Hanabusa camp seemed to hint she was staying in the race to help her chances in November, when the seat will be in play again.

A local strategist close to Hanabusa told the paper the campaign has heard the message to step aside for the interest of the party.

“It has not fallen on deaf ears,” the strategist said. “But we understand our community better than anybody and, come November, there will be a Democrat there.”

The special election is Saturday, May 22, and is a winner-take-all format. The winner will serve out the remainder of Abercrombie’s term and have to re-win the seat this fall. Abercrombie resigned to run for governor.

Democrats had been on a winning streak when it came to special elections. Now the party can concentrate on next Tuesday’s special election for the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) seat.

—S.J.M.

Miller is a campaign reporter for The Hill.  He can be found on The Hill’s Ballot Box, located at thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box.