Depending on your preferred sports metaphor — hockey or horse racing — Democrat Doug Racine just landed a hat trick or a trifecta with today's endorsement by the state's third-largest union: The Vermont State Employees Association.
Just nine days ago, Racine received the backing of the state's two largest unions – the Vermont AFL-CIO and the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association. Those two unions represent more than 21,000 workers. VSEA adds another 8000 members to Racine's fold.
In a competitive, five-way primary this could give Racine an edge over his challengers in terms of fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts.
"As people try to choose between the five candidates, these endorsements will help because we all went through a good process, a lengthy process," said Racine. "I'm pleased that all of these organizations had the debate whether to get involved at all and not only did they get involved, but they decided to recommend me to their membership."
Bob Hooper, VSEA's president, said the union weighed a number of factors in its decision: One-on-one interviews, questionnaires, a live statewide debate, and most importantly each candidate's proven track record. On that final point, Hooper said, Racine was an easy pick for the union.
"With Doug it has been over 20 years of consistent response to our needs and our ideas," said Hooper. "He's really spoken up about Challenges for Change and is making it sure its real challenges and real change — not just lip service."
Hooper said he's worked with Racine on a variety of fronts, from opening up child care centers around the state to serving on a blue ribbon panel examining the state's workforce. Both occurred when Racine was lieutenant governor.
"It's not that anyone else didn't help us, but we just have such along history with him of successful working," added Hooper. "It might not be a lot of glory stuff, but it's there and it's consistent."
VSEA endorsed in three other Democratic primary contests: Rep. Steve Howard (D-Rutland) for lieutenant governor, former Sen. Jim Condos for secretary of state and policy analyst Doug Hoffer for auditor, along with a slate of legislative candidates. They didn't endorse in any GOP primaries.
Racine is running against Sen. Susan Bartlett (D-Lamoille), former Sen. Matt Dunne, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin (D-Windham).
Hooper said VSEA will support Racine financially, along with other candidates. This is part of a stepped-up role the union hopes to play in the general election.
"I think this past year has been a wake-up call to the membership about the Douglas-Dubie regime," said Hooper.
In the coming month, more endorsements may be issued. The Vermont League of Conservation Voters is launching a Vote Green Gov website soon, and could issue endorsements in various statewide and legislative races by early July.
Another coveted union endorsement is coming up soon, too. The Professional Firefighters of Vermont will meet in the next week to begin interviewing statewide and local candidates, and whether they plan to endorse in any of the contested primaries.
"The outcome of our interview process will determine whether we endorse in the primary. If we so choose to endorse in the primary we fully expect that with the hard work of our fully engaged members across
the state that we will continue to work for that candidate in the general election," said Matthew Vinci, the union's president. "It is not our intention to endorse more then once for each office, however this year is defiantly different then other election years."
Though small — the PFV has 325 members and active retirees — it has 100-percent track record of picking the winning candidates in statewide races, noted Vinci.
"Once we endorse we put in motion several programs that support our endorsed candidates to include get out the vote program, sign waves and visibility all over the state, and additional resources," added Vinci.
Will union endorsements sway voters in the Democratic primary? Perhaps, though their track record in recent contests nationally haven't borne it out. Union-backed candidates in the U.S. Senate primaries in Pennsylvania and Arkansas lost.
(photo courtesy of the Racine campaign)