The state's largest public employee union, SEIU with its 50,000 workers, issued a non-endorsement
in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. That decision over the weekend, coming just after three education-related unions endorsed
former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury
, may be a blessing in disguise
for the Democrats' front-runner, former Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Here's why: Kitzhaber, who served as governor from 1995 to 2003, probably has enough name recognition and residual good will with Democratic voters to win the party's nomination. By failing to win the powerful public-employee unions' endorsement in the primary, Kitzhaber can more credibly tell Republicans and unaffiliated voters in the general election that he is independent of those unions' political clout. He also winds up in a stronger negotiating position in the general election, when all the public employee unions are likely to coalesce around the Democratic nominee.
There is, of course, also the possibility that if Kitzhaber is the Democratic nominee he'll have to approach the unions on bended knee because he'll need their bankroll to win the general election. There's also a possibility that Bradbury wins the nomination so all the forgoing speculation is moot.
So enough about what we do not yet know. Here's what SEIU said about its endorsement process:
SEIU REMAINS NEUTRAL IN DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY RACE
The Oregon State Council of the Service Employees International Union voted Saturday to remain neutral in the Democratic gubernatorial primary rather than choose between the two candidates who sought SEIU endorsement, former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and former Governor John Kitzhaber. SEIU represents more than 50,000 public employees, home and child care providers, and hospital, janitorial, and nursing home workers in Oregon.
'We appreciate the extensive qualifications of both candidates and the admirable dedication to working families each has expressed during our review process," said Linda Burgin, a research analyst in the State Department of Education who is President of SEIU Local 503.
Meg Niemi, President of SEIU Local 49, added: "We wish them well and look forward to revisiting our endorsement process after the primary."
SEIU invites all declared candidates to seek its endorsement by completing a questionnaire, spending a day on the job with a union member, and appearing at a member forum.