Labor Unions Pick Choices for Mayor, Council Chairman

By Yolanda Woodlee and Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 23, 2006

Two major labor unions announced support yesterday for different front-runners in the race for D.C. mayor, but both agreed to rally cash and organizational support behind a single candidate for chairman of the D.C. Council: member Kathy Patterson.

In the Democratic primary campaign for mayor, council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) won the endorsement of Council 20 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents nearly 8,000 D.C. government workers, the largest union representing city employees. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) won the support of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 5,000 security guards, janitors and other building service workers.

The AFSCME group's executive director, Geo T. Johnson, said executive board members endorsed Cropp without interviewing other candidates seeking their party's nomination in the Sept. 12 primary. He said the group supports Cropp because she has a long record of achievement on issues such as affordable housing and assistance to the poor.

Cropp "takes a back seat to nobody when it comes to character, charisma and accomplishments," Johnson said. She "has been an integral part in shaping the District, not just today, not just last week, but for years."

Jaime Contreras, district chairman of the SEIU local, said his members decided to support Fenty after interviewing all of the candidates and conducting a candidate forum for union members.

"This is the guy they liked," Contreras said during a rally in a Northwest Washington park near the U.S. State Department, where many local members are employed. "Adrian Fenty has always been on the right side of workers' issues. He takes a position, and he doesn't back away. That's what we like."

In the primary campaign for chairman, Patterson (D-Ward 3) said she was excited to be the choice of both unions.

"I am grateful. I am humbled by this endorsement," she told AFSCME members in Adams Morgan.

In addition to endorsing Cropp and Patterson, the AFSCME council made endorsements in four council primary races, supporting incumbents Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) as well as Ward 5 candidate Harry Thomas Jr., son of the late Harry Thomas Sr. (D-Ward 5), and Ward 6 candidate Tommy Wells, a member of the school board.

The labor announcements came on the same day that mayoral candidate and former telecommunications executive Marie C. Johns drew the endorsement of Future PAC, a three-year-old political action committee composed of African American women who are typically more active on the national political scene. They include Julianne Malveaux, a businesswoman and political commentator who lives in the District, and former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry, who was instrumental in persuading Johns to run for mayor.

Malveaux, who is president of Future PAC, said the group only endorses women. And Johns, she said, was the only mayoral candidate to submit an application requesting the group's endorsement, though Cropp participated in some of its events.

"Having their esteemed name connected to mine is going to continue building momentum," Johns said at a news conference at the Hay-Adams Hotel.

Staff writer Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

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