Labor drafting lefty challenger to conservative House Democrat
Potentially setting up another high-profile clash between the left and the Dem establishment, one of the most powerful unions in the country is privately enlisting a candidate to challenge conservative Dem Rep. Larry Kissell of North Carolina, who infuriated labor with his opposition to heath reform.
The effort is meant to mirror Bill Halter's ongoing labor-fueled challenge to Blanche Lincoln. If successful, it could further the left's efforts to reshape the political landscape by holding Dems accountable for straying from core Dem priorities.
The Service Employees Intenational Union has privately reached out to Wendell Fant, an Iraq War vet, who used to work for Kissell, and is now in the process of collecting signatures to get him on the ballot as an independent, SEIU spokesperson Lori Lodes confirms.
Union chiefs have discussed the race with Fant. A source says Fant indicated he's interested in running if the union successfully collects the more than 16,000 signatures needed to get him on the ballot, though it's not certain he will.
Fant's interest in challenging Kissell has previously been reported locally, but it hasn't gotten national attention. What's more, the SEIU is now much more directly involved in the race, making it far more likely that he'll actually get on the ballot.
Fant couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Interestingly, this move could split the Dem vote and result in the seat being thrown to the GOP. But the union seems determined to hold up a few Dems as examples of what can happen if they betray core liberal principles.
Other labor threats to primary Dems who opposed health reform have fizzled, and a lot could go wrong. The signatures could fail to materialize. Fant could back out. But if Fant does make the race it seems likely that the contest will attract netroots and media interest, and spark another round of debate about the left's ongoing clash with the Dem establishment.
May 24, 2010; 3:48 PM ET
Categories: 2010 elections , House Dems
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