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AFL-CIO Likely to Weigh in on PA-Senate

The AFL-CIO will almost certainly weigh in on next year's Pennsylvania Democratic primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak, according to the group's secretary treasurer Rich Trumka.

Asked in a recent interview with the Fix whether the massive labor organization might stay out of the race entirely, Trumka said simply: "Possible. Not likely."

Where Trumka and the organization he is almost certain to lead -- the AFL-CIO presidential election is in September in Pittsburgh -- decide to put their chips could make the difference between victory and defeat for Specter.

Specter, who switched parties in late April, quickly coalesced many of the major players within the Democratic party behind his candidacy including the White House and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

But, organized labor has been far more reluctant to jump on board with Specter -- citing his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act as a major stumbling block for the newest Democrat.

Trumka gave away little about where the organization might be leaning. "Arlen Specter has been a friend," he said. "Joe Sestak has been a friend."

He did note, however, that the AFL-CIO will take the long view; "we look at the whole record," said Trumka noting that some issues -- like EFCA -- are more important to the labor community than others.

If, as expected, EFCA is reintroduced and Specter votes for it -- as is widely expected -- there will be considerable pressure on labor to get behind the incumbent. If they ultimately back Specter, it's hard to see how Sestak can get to the 50 percent mark in a primary.

"We don't look at the person, we look at the policy," said Trumka of the AFL's approach to politics. That theory will be seriously tested in the coming months.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 7, 2009; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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Comments

The long view is that Sestak has some serious questions regarding his own liberal bonafides. Sestak campaigned primarily as an anti-War candidate, but voted FOR Bush's Iraq War blank check TWICE (no timetables). The peace movement in his district has picketed his office (with the pro-war Bushies springing to Sestak's defense).

Sestak voted against the Dems when it came to defunding Dick "4th branch of government" Cheney. Sestak voted for Telecom immunity and warrantless wiretaps. Sestak is suspected of being a closet conservative and not trustworthy enough to be given a six-year term. Sestak hasn't paid his political dues.

Supporters spent $3.5 million to get him elected to his first term. He then collected an addition 3 million for "re-election" that he never spent or intended to spend, which is now going toward a wasteful Senate Primary. Meanwhile, his PA-7th seat is vulnerable to a GOP take over. Furthermore, a Specter/Sestak primary will waste over $10 million that could be spent on swing/critical Senate races in other states. Sestak is no progressive liberal, and he's certainly not worth the resources that could preserve three to five Senate seats elsewhere (and the PA-7 congressional seat).


Specter has fought against the GOP and helped the Dems on key issues that were not "opportunistic" (and became GOP political suicide).

It is FALSE that Specter voted against EFCA. In the past, Specter supported cloture (no filibuster, allow it to come to a vote). The 2009 pre-compromise EFCA was DOA (dead on arrival) with conservative Senate Dems. The "non-secret ballot" objection touted by conservatives was insurmountable.

Specter has taken the lead on working with Reid to find a compromise that will nullify the conservative objections. Specter will not only vote for the new EFCA, but probably get some credit for pulling in any GOP votes (if there are any).

When Specter votes for EFCA, he will having the backing of the PA unions (which was the ONLY area where Sestak had any hope of getting traction).

Posted by: washingtonpost6 | July 9, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

The issue here is that looking at the long term view, all Democrats need to get behind Sestak. Pennsylvania has a very well established pattern of changing party with the Governorship every 8 years. Ed Rendell is term limited out, and the next governor is most likely to be a Republican.

Besides Specter's obvious opportunism and other issues, why would someone who wants to see the seat held by the Democrats vote for someone who is in their 80's and has had several bouts with cancer? To be perfectly blunt, he is unlikely to survive another 6 years in office and will be replaced by someone chosen by a Republican Governor.

Whether the Sestak campaign will make an issue of age and illness or not, they are facts that need to be considered. Let's be honest, this would not be like voting against Ted Kennedy who has had a long distinguished career as a Democratic leader, so you may feel a sense of loyalty. How much does the Democratic party owe someone who was never there for them when needed? In my mind, it's clearly time to go for the new blood who can hold the seat for many years and the Admiral will have my vote.

Posted by: madala | July 8, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

This will be a very interesting primary. I think Specter can get enough of the left combined with all of the democrats that left the Republican party in 07 & 08 to beat out Sestek. The issue that Sestek will be able to bash Specter on is party hoping & political opportunism. Switching parties after knowing you can't win a primary...though hole to dig from. Can Sestek make Specter's character the ultimate issue in the campaign? Can Specter prove to be a moderate representing the people of Pa. instead of partisan interest like & paint Sestek as honoring partisan interests? Can Toomey capitalize on the primary fight in the GE? My bet is still on Specter in the primary & the GE.

Posted by: reason5 | July 8, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

This will be a very interesting primary. I think Specter can get enough of the left combined with all of the democrats that left the Republican party in 07 & 08 to beat out Sestek. The issue that Sestek will be able to bash Specter on is party hoping & political opportunism. Switching parties after knowing you can't win a primary...though hole to dig from. Can Sestek make Specter's character the ultimate issue in the campaign? Can Specter prove to be a moderate representing the people of Pa. instead of partisan interest like & paint Sestek as honoring partisan interests? Can Toomey capitalize on the primary fight in the GE? My bet is still on Specter in the primary & the GE.

Posted by: reason5 | July 8, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm one of the few teamsters left and I would like to be the first to say thank you and good bye to Specter. For all his past votes against organized labor and fair pay. He always sounds good and looks good until the vote goes down. Then it was all about the party vote. He wouldn't be a democrat if he thought he could win as a republican"t. Time for him to slither on down the road and talk Lieberman with him.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | July 8, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I also think this race is interesting. These are both men I generally like, for many reasons. I am sure that Sestak will become US Senator from PA, but perhaps not this time. Win or lose, I think this challenge permits him to campaign state wide and become known.

I have relatives in PA and we have been talking. Everything I think is colored by their perceptions. I know "mnteng" lives in PA and I think he likes both men, as well. Margaretmeyers, are you in PA?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | July 7, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

If Specter mostly toes the Democratic line (and I think he will, rather than run afoul of his new best friends Rendell, Biden, Obama and the Pennsylvania Democrats who vote in primaries) the AFL-CIO will be unwilling to run afoul of their old best friends (Rendell, Biden, Obama and the Pennsylvania Democrats who vote in primaries. Specter knows this is his to lose. He has a lot of ego, and he really wants to be reelected.

I'm waiting to hear from all the conservative bloggers who ripped into Specter's party switch as an example of base, political self-serving. Palin has walked away from her job to better her own political fortunes. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 7, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Chris,

You of all people should know that Specter--at least until his 'conversion'--was never quite a friend to Organised Labour, and indeed voted against EFCA in its earlier incarnation. It would be a eyebrows-to-hairline moment if he were to switch to being pro-EFCA if it were brought up for a vote once again--however many face-saving alterations Specter could point to.

Sestak has always been a friend to Organised Labour in his relatively short career. This is, to me, one of the most fascinating primary races to watch!

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 7, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

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