A recent email sent by Tea Party and Legislative District 20 Republican leaders calling mayoral candidate Greg Stanton "union-owned" and "the real enemy of the citizens of Phoenix" has brought up the question: Is it a bad thing for candidates to be union endorsed?
It's a practice that has gone on for years. Candidates seek the endorsement of private sector and public sector unions. The unions then help with the campaign for the candidate they think is best for the job. Recently, some are questioning whether the endorsements may require action from the candidate in the future.
The email was sent by Jeni White, chairman of LD 20 GOP, to three associates. It was an unofficial communication containing Stanton's list of upcoming events and asking that they attend and ask good questions of Stanton. That message was picked up by Wes Harris, chairman of the North Phoenix Tea Party, who forwarded it on to candidates Jennifer Wright and Wes Gullet and called Stanton an "enemy" and "liberal professional."
White said she sent the message because she believes Phoenix can not afford to have Stanton win the election.
"Look at what's been happening in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states that have had to make tough choices and deal with labor union blowback," White said. "In the current political climate across the country, it's hard to see how being endorsed by the local American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) chapter is a positive thing for Mr. Stanton."
Stanton disagrees. He says his endorsements are a sign of good labor relations.
"It's important that the city of Phoenix have good labor management relations," Stanton said. "Some people don't understand this but having good relationships with employees is important, particularly if and when you need to ask the employees to make tough decisions."
Stanton has endorsements from city employee organizations, the Arizona Police Association and Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs.
Mike Durham, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident who has worked closely with the Phoenix Police Department and has spent time lobbying the Legislature for better handling of cold cases, says after all the problems the police department has had in the past year or so he's not even sure what these endorsements mean anymore.
"In past elections candidates would say I'm police supported and that seemed very strong. This pillar in the community supported the candidate," Durham said. "I don't know what Stanton is going to do with this report. With this endorsement, what kind of policy does that mean you're going to implement? It's a very confusing message."
City Councilman Sal DiCiccio of Ahwatukee Foothills said he believes these endorsements will mean less change for city residents and more of politics as usual.
"Greg has the support of almost every major union," DiCiccio said. "The debate right now centers on is the public going to get their services or are the unions going to continue lining their pocket. When you're supported by the unions you're saying you're going to support union bosses over the public."
DiCiccio said he was endorsed by unions when he ran for office but he believes it is rare for a politician to be honest with the unions like he has.
Stanton said in each endorsement process he never makes promises to unions that would be inappropriate. He says the only promise he makes to the large unions that support him is that they will be treated with respect.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Chad Blostone belongs to a private sector union. He said he believes union endorsements do give candidates more power in municipal elections, but Stanton is not the only candidate with endorsements. Claude Mattox is endorsed by Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona.
"Unions are completely appropriate in my opinion," Blostone said. "In the municipality they seem to have a disproportionate amount of power. To me it doesn't seem to happen so much at the state level because the special interests don't control the election cycle as much because the state representatives are all elected on the same ballot as the national elections. They get a much better voter turnout. The municipal elections are off cycle and you end up with very low voter turnout and those who do turn out are the vested interests. Those include the unions."
The election will take place on Aug. 30.
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