Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kennedy Endorsement Raises Question: Personal Gratitude or Inside Information?

Yesterday, Laborers Local 120 endorsed Democrat Melina Kennedy's mayoral bid, citing her "experience as a proven job-creator."

Laborer's business manager David Frye also complimented Kennedy's "passion for working families" and her vision and leadership which he states will get "this city moving forward again."

What is notable about this public endorsement is that...well, it's public.

Folks around the two front-runners' camps (sorry to the others, but I'm talking about Melina and Joe Hogsett for the moment), both believe they will have Congressman Carson's endorsement, and they are not afraid to make the prediction. Maybe neither of them is saying it directly, but, boy, an awful lot of their emissaries are talking like they have "inside information."

If the Congressman is leaning, he's holding the cards close to the vest, which makes the Laborers the first "smart money" entity to go out on a wing.

Every union endorsement is a momentum generator, but how huge it will be remains to be seen. Local 120's website states it represents 2,000 workers, but this number includes "Central Indiana," not just Marion County. Also, going back to 2001, Local 120 has only donated $54,000 combined to all state representatives, senators, statewide candidates, party committees, and party caucuses, with the latter two getting the lion's share. Local 120 largest donations to any candidate during that time were checks totaling only $6,000 to Jim Schellinger in the 2007 and 2008 election cycles.

Of course, as with any organization that has larger bodies to which it belongs, if the Local 120 guys can convince the guys in Terre Haute who preside over the state Laborers PAC, or even the national in D.C. to get interested, Kennedy could see a good-sized faucet open (Laborers combined donations equal $734,000 in donations since 2001, though, again, most large donations have been to party and caucus committees).

But I wouldn't be too optimistic at this juncture. I cannot see any state or national union PAC wanting to throw in on a Democratic Party primary for Mayor of Indianapolis until it's closer to a fait accompli. Right now, most people are waiting for the first reporting period, which is going to shock some folks.

But I promise this. If Kennedy can string together more key labor endorsements from unions like SEIU (which was tight in the Obama camp Melina belonged to), AFSCME, the IBEW, or the UAW, people are going to definitely start thinking that the Congressman has let slip a preference. I just can't envision any politically-astute union standing in the way of the Congressman's wish, and those who don't know his preference, wouldn't likely move. Of course, endorsements can be "personal," and if the Laborers benefited from projects overseen by Kennedy, this may be as simple as well-earned gratitude, not an effort to challenge the Congressman's ultimate choice. But not knowing the political calculus will make people wonder.

This Democratic primary is equivalent it is to stock market trading, with one key exception - there's no prohibition against insider information in politics. Think of the Congressman as the upcoming press announcement on what entity will take over Indy Mayor, Inc. When the "institutional investors" like Laborers 120 start buying up shares in Kennedy Co., people on the street want to know what they know.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although initally opposed to a Kennedy candidacy, I recently spent time with her and must say I left being very impressed not only with her philosophy and command of facts and figures but with her energy. This is what we need if the Dems are going to recapture the mayor's office. While still undecided, I am certainly leaning in her direction.