Elizabeth Esty was in the car headed to a reception for U.S. Rep. John Larson in New Hartford when she received the call from the state’s largest labor organization letting her know they were throwing their support behind her candidacy in the 5th Congressional District.
It took about 90-minutes for the 80 members of AFL-CIO’s executive board to endorse her candidacy by more than the two-thirds margin needed to secure its support.
“Based on her record and her commitment to stand up for the issues that working families care about, we believe that Elizabeth Esty is the best candidate to be our next U.S. Representative from the 5th Congressional District,“ John W. Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO said.
The endorsement means that the state federation will engage in a political education program in the 5th Congressional District race providing information contrasting Esty’s record during her one term in the House to that of Republican Sen. Andrew Roraback‘s 18 year record as a state lawmaker.
“Union members will be volunteering to call union members or knock on union household doors. It is all part of an effort to make sure that union members know about the issues in the campaign that affect working families,” Olsen said.
Olsen cited Esty’s involvement in the fight to save jobs at the Cheshire Pratt and Whitney plant, her votes on issues such as health care reform and education, as well as her willingness to protect the right to organize and collectively bargain, as factors leading to the endorsement.
Esty, who won the Democratic nomination last week, said she was “honored to have the endorsement of the hard-working men and women of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.”
Olsen pushed for the endorsement believing it was necessary to make certain the seat remains in Democratic hands.
Esty beat Dan Roberti and House Speaker Chris Donovan, who has been a labor darling throughout his 20 year political career, last Tuesday.
Many in the labor movement, including the AFL-CIO backed Donovan’s candidacy prior to the Democratic primary and many attended his concession speech last week at the Meriden Cultural Center. There are even some who have been holding out hope Donovan will continue his candidacy on the Working Families Party ballot line.
But Donovan took vacation after losing the Democratic nomination and his campaign has not said whether he will seek a third-party run.
Donovan‘s campaign was derailed by a federal investigation which lead to the arrest of his former finance director and campaign manager. The FBI charged the campaign staffers with hiding the names of donors who were attempting to influence legislation before the General Assembly. The two men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Donovan maintained he had no knowledge of the alleged scheme to trade his influence for campaign donations and the feds have not indicted him.
“Right now I don’t see any path to victory for Chris Donovan,“ Olsen said earlier this week during a radio interview on WDRC.
If Donovan stays in and makes it a three-way race, then he’s more likely to pull votes from Esty making it easier for Roraback, to win the open seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.
While he was careful not to call on Donovan to drop out of the race, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday, “I think Democrats, Republicans, and Independents should support Elizabeth Esty.”
“Anything less is not representative of progressive politics in Connecticut,” he added.
The Working Families Party co-chairs, who also happen to be labor leaders with UAW, 32BJ, and AFSCME, asked for a little patience on Tuesday.
“When Chris Donovan returns from vacation, we’ll have a conversation with him about remaining on the Working Families ballot line,“ Working Families Party Co-Chairs Julie Kushner, Kurt Westby, and Sal Luciano said in a statement. “State law leaves the decision in Chris Donovan’s hands. If he chooses to give up the line, the Working Families Party will go through our regular, democratic process to determine how to fill the vacancy in the next few weeks.”