The Virginia AFLSCIO today endorsed the 'rainbow' ticket of Henry Howell for governor, Chuck Robb for lieutenant governor and Edward E. Lane or attorney general with only a handful of delegates shouting "no" in an apparent objection to Lane.
Before and during this convention it was clear that the leadership of the state's most influential labor organization wanted the approximately 400 delegates here to support all three Democratic candidates, despite some delegates' objection to the conservative Lane.
The convention endorsed all threee candidates in one action, rather than voting on each candidate in turn, a parliamentary tactic apparently aimed at minimizing any chance of public objection to Lane.
State AFL-CIO president Junian W. Carper also spent five minutes before the vote criticizing Lane's opponents, state Sen. Marshall Coleman, for what he described as antilabor votes in the General Assembly. Coleman has attacked Lane for supporting segregation when Virginia's legislature voted to oppose school desegragation.
A flyer, printed by the state office, was also distributed to delegates on the floor. It contrased Coleman's record with Lane's on seven bills.
Although he was not endorsed the review committees of the AFL-CIO, Whose recommendations are usually followed by the convention. Coleman has been seeking labor support before and during this convention.
The few dissenters wer muted seconds after the initial vote with a motion to make the endorsement unanimous. At this proposal a lone voice shoute, "no" and Carper ruled the vote a unanimous endorsement.
Once the business of the day was over three candidates and their wives were escorted to the dais, flocks of ballons were released over the crowd (and popped, sounding like firecrackers), a team of females cheer-leaders in shorts waved pom-poms and jumped about, amid cheering and stomping.
In a speech that was good if not vintage Howell, the energetic orator spoke of "rumors" that his Republican opponent John Dalton has used his office, either as lieutenant governor or state legislator for financial gain.
He challenged Dalton, as he has previously, to release a statement of his personal financial holdings and those of his family.
Calling out to Dalton as though he were somewhere upstairs in the hotel, Howell said, "Jonny, listen, whenever you are. Now hear this, Jonny. I'm asking you to take the first step to bring sunshine to Virginia public life. Jonny, I'm asking you to file a personal financial statement so we can know what you own and how you earned it . . . Jonny, can you hear me? Let it known. By next Wednesday, next Wednesday, Jonny Cuz, Jonny, we don't want any rumors in this campaign."
Howell then went to no to say, "There are those who are saying that he attempted to feather his nest by the bills he put and the bills he tried to get past. Now if you were attempting to use public office to feather your nest. Jonny, you'd better get out of the race...Shades of Watergate we want nothing of in Virginia."
Questioned by reporters later, HOwell would not elaborate other than to say he had "heard rumors" and any furthers details would be "next week's story."
When a reporter asked if Howell's charge wasn't "like asking a man when he did you beating your wife," he said. "Not at all. Take an hour off, and go think about your question and you'll see it isn't."
In response to Howell's remarks, a spokesman for Dalton said the "wild charges were an absurd attempt to draw attention away from his endorsement by the labor leaders. The best comment on this type of smear was made months ago by Adrew P. Miller (Howell's opponent in the primary): 'Attacks on the motives and integrity of others for reasons of political expediency have been the foundation of Mr. Howell's career.'"
The spokesman said Dalton would not release more information on his personal finances, because Dalton has already made public "more than the law requires."
Howell said it was necessary to have Dalton's financial statements before examining his record as a legislator for possible conflicts of interest and thus lay to rest any "rumors."
He said, as he has previously, that he will reveal this financial holdings only if Dalton does.
The AFL-CIO endorsement will generate $200,000 in donation from union members toward Howell's $800,000 campaign, Howell hopes. In addition, the numbers of the potential volunteer workers from the estimated 176,000 people affiliated either as members or family with the AFL-CIO is vast Howell has frequently acknowledged his debt to labor as a prime factor in winning the Democratic primary this spring.
Dalton said he was "not suprised" at the labor endorsement because "Mr. Howell has certainly earned (if). He has been courting the national labor leadership, paying his dues, his entire career."