Colorado unions will face a serious challenge in the New Year as they attempt to endorse candidates for state and national offices.
The conundrum begins at the two top spots on the ticket—governor and U.S. senate—and trickles down to candidates for other statewide offices and the state legislature. Gov. Ritter’s record on labor issues is a very real problem for some union leaders. Most building trades unions, the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers have said they will not endorse the governor in 2010.
Given the Republican alternatives who have announced their candidacies for governor, the unions who oppose Ritter may simply make no endorsement in the race. Indeed, they would rather endorse a candidate, but they might not have a choice. Governor Ritter would still probably gain the support of most, if not all, of the public sector unions.
The unions opposed to Ritter have been openly looking for a candidate to challenge the governor in the Democratic primary. However, finding a candidate who would have sufficient name recognition to effectively campaign against Ritter has so far been impossible.
There is also division in labor ranks in the U.S. Senate campaign. Ritter appointed Michael Bennet to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who had been named in mid-term by President Obama as interior secretary. Bennet’s appointment not only caught labor off guard, but also surprised Democratic activists, many of whom wanted Ritter to appoint Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives.
Romanoff has since announced his candidacy and will run against Bennet in the primary. Bennet has raised a ton of money, mostly from interests outside Colorado. But Romanoff believes he has done quite well in short time he has been raising funds. To his advantage is the fact that most of those voting in the primary election will be party activists who were bewildered by Ritter’s selection of Bennet. However, Bennet’s support for a public option in the health care proposal that is being formulated in Congress will probably help him among liberal Democrats and some labor people.
Romanoff and Bennet will likely receive at least some co-endorsements from unions. For either candidate to get a single endorsement from a monolithic labor movement will be problematic.
Democrats are somewhat optimistic because it appears as if the Republicans will also have two primary elections for the top jobs. And they could be nasty campaigns. Each of their major candidates carries baggage that will be exposed during the campaign.
In the GOP race for governor, former congressman Scott McGinnis is running against Josh Penry, minority leader of the Colorado Senate, who used to work for McGinnis. Dan Maes, a business man, is the third candidate, but he hasn’t had much impact so far. Jane Norton, former Colorado lieutenant governor, is running against Ken Buck, Weld Country district attorney, and a few others in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate.
All of the negative activity at the top of the ticket in both parties will filter down to other statewide and legislative races. Unquestionably, interest ebbs when party activists are led by a candidate or candidates at the top of the ticket they didn’t support in the primary election. This can be disastrous to a general election campaign.
Right now, the best organized labor can hope for in Colorado in 2010 is that it won’t lose too much.
And Democrats ought to be thinking the same thing