- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A labor-backed effort in North Carolina to challenge House Democrats in the midterm elections appears to have failed because organizers of a proposed third party have not submitted enough petition signatures by the Monday deadline.

Gary O. Bartlett, executive director for the state board of elections, said Monday afternoon that none of the agency’s precincts had received petitions from the upstart party but that officials had a 5 p.m. deadline and a final count cannot be made until Tuesday morning.

The party had to submit roughly 85,000 signatures to local election officials by May 17, then have the certified petitions to the state by June 1.

The “North Carolina First Party” was conceived in part by the Service Employees International Union and its local union State Employees Association of North Carolina as a way to pressure state Democrats from the left.

The campaign attracted national attention and was cited as evidence of voter anti-incumbent sentiment. Labor unions have long been a mainstay of the Democratic coalition.

However, the AFL-CIO and other labor groups have not always seen eye to eye with the Obama administration or with some centrist Democrats, among them the 34 congressional Democrats who voted against Mr. Obama’s health care reform package.

Three of those lawmakers were North Carolina congressmen - Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell, all of whom won in the state’s May 4 primary.

Signs that the movement might be losing momentum emerged several weeks ago when organizers for the proposed party stopped returning phone calls. Officials for SEIU, SEANC and North Carolina First did not return phone calls Monday.

The AFL-CIO, the largest and most influential labor umbrella group, has reportedly targeted 20 incumbent Democrats, including Arkansas incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln who faces a tough challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter going into Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Mrs. Lincoln, who once had the AFL-CIO’s support, opposed the health bill’s “public option” plan and has upset organized labor with her recent voting record and opposition to “card check” legislation designed to make it easier for unions to organize a work site.

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