Big Unions Sidestep Mayoral Race–For Now
DAN MIHALOPOULOS | Chicago News Cooperative
January 15, 2011
After spending millions of dollars last year to elect Gov. Patrick Quinn and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the Service Employees International Union is hesitating to get involved in the race to succeed retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley.
On Friday, after interviewing the mayoral hopefuls in the Feb. 22 election, SEIU officials decided to issue no endorsement, at least not yet.
SEIU State Council President Thomas Balanoff said there were “a couple good candidates” for mayor and the union, which has become the top campaign donor to Illinois politicians, could become involved if there is a run-off to succeed Daley in April.
“We’ve stayed neutral,” Balanoff told the Chicago News Cooperative on Friday. “We think there will be a run-off. We will take a hard look at the two candidates who make the run-off.”
The union’s political director, Jerry Morrison, expressed his dismay at the prospect of Emanuel as mayor almost immediately after Daley said he would retire and Emanuel emerged as a possible successor.
But with the former congressman and presidential adviser leading in polls, labor groups including the Chicago Federation of Labor also have balked at injecting themselves in the mayor’s race.
Balanoff said SEIU is focusing instead on City Council races across Chicago’s wards. On Friday, SEIU officials made endorsements in 26 of 50 wards, and they said they could get involved in other races before the Feb. 22 voting or in the campaign for the run-off.
Four years ago, SEIU spent almost $2.5 million in Council races, spearheading a union effort that helped depose Daley allies like Madeline Haithcock, Shirley Coleman and Dorothy Tillman. Asked about the budget for this election, Balanoff said SEIU expects to be involved “at the same level as last time.” Total expenditures by SEIU and other labor groups, including the CFL, could top $4 million, union sources told the CNC.
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