Updated below with Vermont-National Education Association endorsements announced Monday afternoon.
As we reported in last week's Fair Game, Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans) has so far run the table on labor endorsements in his bid for state auditor.
That changed Sunday when his opponent, Democrat and Progressive Doug Hoffer (pictured), took home the endorsement of the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
"Both candidates had a lot of support, but in the end the delegates decided they wanted to come out and support one candidate," said AFL-CIO president Ben Johnson. "Sen. Illuzzi does have a lot of support from labor, but when the delegates looked at the totality of the two candidates' records, the delegates clearly came down on the side of Hoffer."
Meeting at its annual convention over the weekend at Jay Peak, the umbrella labor organization heard from most candidates for statewide office in Vermont. On Sunday, delegates representing the AFL-CIO's member unions voted to endorse a slate of candidates, most of whom are Democrats. They include Gov. Peter Shumlin, lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Cassandra Gekas, Secretary of State Jim Condos, Treasurer Beth Pearce, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch.
The one Democrat spurned by the group was Attorney General Bill Sorrell, who for the second time this year was passed over by the AFL-CIO. In June, the organization backed Sorrell's Democratic primary opponent, T.J. Donovan. On Sunday, it endorsed Progressive AG candidate Ed Stanak (pictured below).
Johnson cited Stanak's tenure as president of the Vermont State Employees Association from 2001 through 2006 as evidence of the Prog's commitment to labor.
"Here's a case where the convention delegates saw a former union president who has a vision of the AG's office to aggressively support working Vermonters and the interests of working people against a sitting attorney general who makes a really lackluster case for himself," Johnson said.
Hoffer, who was endorsed by the organization when he ran unsuccessfully for auditor in 2010, said Sunday night, "I could not be happier about the AFL-CIO endorsement."
Though Hoffer was also endorsed that year by the VSEA and the Vermont-National Education Association, he has had a tougher time this year pulling labor support away from Illuzzi, who is known as a champion of labor in the legislature. So far this year Illuzzi has won endorsements from the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont, the Vermont State Troopers, the VSEA and the Teamsters Local 597. Candidates also met with the Vermont NEA this weekend, but that group has yet to announce its endorsements.
Illuzzi said Sunday night that he was "surprised" by the AFL-CIO's choice, but said he'd continue to seek the support of its member unions.
Johnson said that while his organization has not yet committed to making financial contributions to the candidates it has endorsed, it plans to play a more active role in November's elections than it has in the past.
"We're going to staff up with field organizers for the remaining weeks of the campaign to mobilize our members to get out and vote in a way that surpasses what the AFL's been able to do in the past," he said.
The 12,000-member Vermont-National Education Association on Monday unveiled its own slate of endorsements, which differs quite a bit from the AFL-CIO’s recommendations.
While the NEA also backed incumbents Shumlin and Condos — and previously announced its support for Pearce — the union took a different direction in its lieutenant gubernatorial and auditor selections. The NEA opted to support Republican lieutenant governor Phil Scott over Gekas and Illuzzi over Hoffer.
Spokesman Darren Allen said Monday that the union sat out the AG’s race, as it typically does, because, “It really has no direct effect on public education policy.” He said the NEA had previously endorsed Sanders’ and Welch’s 2012 reelection efforts.
Allen said that while the NEA’s board was “impressed” by both Hoffer and Illuzzi, it opted to back the candidate with a longer legislative track record — even though the union had backed Hoffer in 2010.
“Sen. Illuzzi has been a friend for decades,” he said. “That counts for something. They were enthusiastic in recommending his election.”
According to Allen, the union plans to dedicate staff to turning out teachers to vote for the NEA’s slate. Its affiliated political action committee may also donate directly to the campaigns it’s backing.