- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2020

The country’s second-largest teachers’ union came up with a multiple-choice solution for who to endorse in the 2020 Democratic presidential race and recommended three candidates.

The American Federation of Teachers told its 1.7 million members that the best education candidates were either Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont or Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or former Vice President Joe Biden.

AFT President Randi Weingarten announced the split decision after a telephone town hall with members Thursday night.

Calling President Trump an “existential threat” to the education community, Ms. Weingarten said, “our board felt strongly that until the AFT makes a national endorsement in the primary process or at the AFT convention, it is important that our affiliates, members and leaders, including the three national officers, be actively involved in supporting and helping Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren.”

“Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren have significant support within our membership,” she said. “There is a real connection with these three candidates.”

The three-way endorsement followed a meeting of the union’s executive council where it chose to “step up what is already member engagement” and urge its affiliates to throw their support behind the three candidacies.

The AFT announcement comes while the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union with an estimated 3 million members, remained quiet about its favorite in the crowded 2020 field.

In the last presidential election, the NEA angered its members by endorsing Hillary Clinton well ahead of what became a surprisingly tight nomination battle between her and Mr. Sanders. The NEA went with Ms. Clinton in October 2015, although many members reportedly would have preferred waiting and backing Mr. Sanders.

The NEA said it has not made any major overhaul of its process in the aftermath of 2016. The union requires a questionnaire and a one-on-one recorded interview with its president, videos of which are then posted the union’s website.

At the moment, most of the major Democratic candidates have completed that process with the exception of California billionaire investor Tom Steyer and former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, according to the NEA.

Both teachers unions have already held myriad forums with the candidates, insisting they want the endorsement decision to be driven by their combined membership of 4.6 million.

Last month, however, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia indicated the union planned to keep its powder dry until a clear winner emerged from the Democratic pack. She told Politico the union would not “bring a recommendation before we see who actually can deliver votes.”

Ms. Weingarten said the AFT did not want to stay on the sidelines because it considers Mr. Trump’s defeat so critical.

“It was clear that the time to take this action was now before all the delegates are chosen and before all of the primaries are over,” she said.

The teachers’ unions are considered among the staunchest backers of Democratic candidates among big players in election cycles.

“Even more than most labor unions, they have little use for Republicans, giving Democrats at least 94 percent of the funds they contributed to candidates and parties since as far back as 1990, where our data begins,” the Center for Responsive Politics notes.

Their data also shows teachers’ unions have amped up their money game, as they spent about $32 million in the 2016 cycle.

In the 2020 cycle, the AFT has kicked in $6.3 million this far, according to OpenSecrets.

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