- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

Organized labor's election priorities include defeating a governor named Bush, ousting a Colorado senator with an anti-union voting record and electing a Democrat from a new district in Nevada where Palm Pilots may help determine the winner.
With time and money dwindling as Election Day nears, labor is devoting its resources to pivotal races where it desperately wants Democratic victories.
The AFL-CIO is pouring about $33 million into the 2001-2002 election cycle on top of that being spent by its 65 affiliated unions, many of which have their own political budgets and programs. Control of Congress and 36 governorships are at stake Nov. 5.
Labor is concentrating on 35 House, a half-dozen Senate and 20 governor's races. But it is especially concerned with key races in Florida, Nevada, Minnesota and Colorado.
In Florida's gubernatorial campaign, labor is working to get out the vote for Democrat Bill McBride, a Tampa lawyer, in his race against Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. The state has about 500,000 union members and 140,000 union retirees.
More than 300 coordinators from the Teamsters, iron workers, service employees and teachers unions are involved. Members' voter registration is up almost 25 percent from 2000.
Voters are getting phone calls and fliers in the mail. The mailings take on Mr. Bush for Florida's education budget, tax cuts for business and eliminating state jobs through budget cuts and privatization.
In Nevada's new 3rd Congressional District, union members are using Palm Pilots to build their voter lists and tailor messages to specific voters in support of Democrat Dario Herrera, a county commission chairman running against Republican Jon Porter, a former state senator.
Union members have knocked on 35,000 doors and, using Palm Pilots, have stored union voters' information and the issues they consider most important. That information is downloaded daily into a voter database.
"We're able to look at that data, and we know the score every day," said Danny Thompson, secretary-treasurer for the Nevada AFL-CIO. "We're able to see if somebody's running an ad, whether that's making an impact."
If a voter speaks Spanish and his top issue is crime, he will get in the mail as quickly as the next day a flier in Spanish that details Mr. Herrera's plans to combat crime, Mr. Thompson said.
Nevada has about 165,000 union members, most of whom live in the district, which encompasses Las Vegas.
Minnesota's hotly contested Senate race could result in the defeat of a close ally of labor, and union members are rushing to help.
Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone is in a tight race with Republican challenger Norm Coleman, and that is energizing union members, said Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer for the Minnesota AFL-CIO.
"He's consistently voted our way on issues such as trade, organizing rights and extending unemployment benefits," Mr. Hunter said. "He's not shy about stating his opinion and staking out a position on things. That straightforward honesty probably has hurt him with some people."
Minnesota has about 400,000 union members. Mr. Hunter said organized labor has embarked on an intense get-out-the-vote drive. The effort includes work-site leafleting, mailers, phone banks and knocking on doors.
In Colorado, the race for the U.S. Senate has also energized labor's grass roots. The state's 140,000 union members can expect before Election Day nine to 12 phone calls, or visits at work or home from their union or the AFL-CIO. Counting mailings, that number jumps to 15.
Unions are backing Democrat Tom Strickland over Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, who has earned a zero by the AFL-CIO for his votes on working-family issues.
Labor knows that constant contact works. In 2000, the same union plan helped Democrats take control of the state Senate for the first time in 40 years.

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