I suppose they couldn’t change the timetable, but two of Vermont’s biggest unions picked a bad time to release their endorsements for governor and lieutenant governor. They were revealed on Tuesday, when practically all eyes were turned toward the last round of presidential primaries — and the few remaining eyes were focused on Governor Shumlin’s veto of S.230 and the legislative effort to rewrite the bill or override the veto.
But let’s not allow the nods to vanish into the mists of history just yet, because they are likely to carry great weight in our new, improved, low-turnout August primary.
The Vermont State Employees Association and the Vermont Labor Council AFL-CIO both opted for Matt Dunne for governor, and David Zuckerman for lieutenant governor. Last week, the VSEA’s legislative committee recommended Galbraith to its members, but the board of trustees went with Dunne after taking a straw poll among the union membership.
In both races, the unions opted for the person least associated with the Shumlin administration and the Democratic legislative caucuses. I guess that’s not surprising, given VSEA’s very contentious relationship with the administration. Just think of it as another of Shumlin’s little gifts to the Democrats who would succeed him.
In announcing the endorsement, VSEA chief Steve Howard delivered some well-aimed jabs at the Governor. He said Dunne is “not someone who’s suddenly going to ask us to open up our contract,” and that Dunne “was the first candidate to say ‘enough is enough’” when the administration sought to reopen the contract last fall.
Dunne got a third boost on Tuesday, also buried in the onslaught of other political news, when he received endorsements from a majority of Burlington City Councilors — four Progressives, two Democrats, and one independent. That gives him a substantial foothold in Chittenden County, which is significant for a candidate whose home turf is on the other side of the state. (He is also, I’ve been told, a longtime friend of Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. Don’t know if that will result in an endorsement, but it sure can’t hurt.)
The labor-union backing may be more crucial this year than ever before. This is the first year since 2010 that we’ll have a contested Democratic primary for governor, and the first time since I don’t know when that we’ll have a contested primary for Lite-Guv.
And this is the first time we’ll have a primary in early August, which is likely to mean lower turnout than in September. If the unions make a real push for their guys, it could make all the difference.
And to the extent that the endorsements signal that Dunne and Zuckerman are making progress among core Democratic constituencies, it’s bad news for Sue Minter, Peter Galbraith, Shap Smith, and Kesha Ram.