In Mass. Senate Race, a Battle for Union Votes

In Mass. Senate Race, a Battle for Union Votes

By Steve LeBlanc - October 23, 2012

BOSTON (AP) — Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren are honing their campaign pitches to union workers as they scrap for every vote in Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate race.

While Warren has the backing of the AFL-CIO and has appeared with union activists on the campaign trail, Brown is courting rank-and-file workers and scooping up his own endorsements, many from police organizations.

Brown is facing more than just a battle of endorsements, however.

The AFL-CIO’s support of Warren brings with it a small army of campaign workers and financial support. The group has already helped flood voter mailboxes with fliers promoting Warren’s candidacy.

Warren has been aggressive about courting union votes.

Last month, she accepted the backing of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts outside a fire station in the city’s South Boston neighborhood.

‘‘I know that if anything goes wrong, the firefighters of the commonwealth of Massachusetts have my back,’’ she said. ‘‘I guarantee you if I go to Washington, I'll have their back.’’

Brown also has reason to hope his message to union workers is resonating.

AFL-CIO officials have acknowledged nearly half their members voted for Brown in the 2010 special election when he won the seat left vacant by the death of longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Those union votes went to Brown despite the AFL-CIO’s endorsement of Brown’s Democratic rival, state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Brown is hoping to repeat that support. Last week he held a campaign event in Worcester to accept the endorsement of Carl Gentile, former president of the Worcester’s Teamsters Union.

Gentile praised what he called Brown’s ability to work with Republicans and Democrats.

‘‘I know that my union is not happy with the decision I made,’’ he said. ‘‘But you have to cross over that center lane. You have to be a bipartisan, and nobody does it any better than Scott Brown.’’

Brown has also touted the backing of police groups like the Massachusetts Municipal Police Coalition, a voluntary coalition of municipal police unions in communities around greater Boston.

Brown welcomed the support, saying, ‘‘The interests of law enforcement have always been near and dear to my heart.’’

In fundraising letters, Brown has also tried to appeal to union members over the heads of union officials.

‘‘Big Labor Bosses are forcing union members to get-out-the-vote for Elizabeth Warren or get fined,’’ he wrote. ‘‘Outside groups like the AFL-CIO and EMILY’s List have sent hateful mail to households across the state wildly distorting my record.’’

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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