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Thursday, January 19, 2012

At Least One Union Agrees with the PBA: Eileen Brady is Best for Mayor

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Just more than a month after a press conference where four labor leaders took pains to say they didn't much like—not yet, at least—any of the major candidates running for Portland mayor, one of those union presidents has changed his mind.

In a release sent out almost an hour ago, Eileen Brady's campaign announced an endorsement from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 48—giving her something no other candidate will be able to boast: Support from a labor group, but also the Portland Business Alliance.

"I am honored to have the support of over 4,000 working men and women of IBEW Local 48," a statement from Brady says.

IBEW is the first union to weigh in on the mayor's race, picking Brady over former city commissioner Charlie Hales and state Representative Jefferson Smith, the presumptive labor darling heading into the race. Local 48's political liaison, Joe Esmonde, said last month that his group's "number one" priority was the Columbia River Crossing (CRC), and Brady has been the most outspoken about moving forward on the very, very expensive and questionable and increasingly troubled bridge. She may yet wrap up support from other building trades unions, many of which share Esmonde's view of the CRC.

(Not that the IBEW statement supplied by Brady's campaign mentions that. It focuses heavily on her ties to New Seasons—a narrative that took a heavy attackyesterday in Willamette Week.)

How important is the IBEW's pick? It may mean bodies, and cash, for a campaign that's racking up donations but that's also had to burn through those same donations at a rapid clip. (Brady, unlike Hales and Smith, has no past history in politics to trade on.)

But it's also worth noting who else IBEW endorsed in a recent election: State Representative Brad Witt, who came in third in the recent Democratic First Congressional District primary, behind Brad Avakian and Suzanne Bonamici. Bigger unions that employ a lot more city employees, AFSCME and SEIU, sat out that race and have yet to go for anyone in the mayoral race.

I wrote months ago that Smith, who has been privately and publicly opposed to spending cash on the CRC as currently designed, was risking the blessing of certain unions. That appears to be coming true. His staff wasn't floored by Brady's news.

"It's not surprising," Smith campaign consultant Stacy Dycus told me, "considering that their Number 1 priority is the Columbia River Crossing."

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