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AD 18 brawl erupts over SEIU’s ‘un-endorsement’

By Josh Richman
Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 3:34 pm in 2012 Assembly election, Assembly.

We don’t tend to get excited about unions endorsing Democratic candidates, but when a union later revokes that endorsement, our ears perk up.

That’s exactly what happened to Joel Young, a candidate in the 18th Assembly District, who had gained the Service Employees International Union of California’s endorsement only to then lose it.

Actually, SEIU California in early February had endorsed all three Democrats in the 18th District race: Young, who is an AC Transit director; Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta; and Peralta Community Colleges Trustee Abel Guillen. (Republican Rhonda Weber also is in the race.) But SEIU California’s board unanimously voted at the end of last month to revoke the endorsement from Young.

Here’s what’s not in dispute: Young somehow obtained parts of the endorsement questionnaires that Bonta and Guillen had filled out – papers meant for the union’s eyes only. He was showing around his opponents’ pledges not to take money from JobsPAC, a political action committee co-chaired by the California Chamber of Commerce – a pledge he never made.

Here’s what is in dispute: Young’s motivation.

Joel Young“It’s my understanding that after making a pledge not to seek money from JobsPAC or members of JobsPAC, they are indeed doing that,” Young said Thursday of Bonta and Guillen. “I realize that it’s common in our politics to talk out of both sides of our mouth, but that doesn’t make it right. Both Abel and Rob have made pledges to people in this community and it’s wrong for them to go against those pledges in Sacramento.”

“I was happy that the locals voted to support me and naturally disappointed that their vote was overridden. But that’s none of my business, that’s an SEIU issue,” he said. “While I would love to have had SEIU’s support, I remain committed to giving SEIU my support if I am elected.”

Other sources, however, said Young is putting a respectable spin on a disrespectful act – they say he used the union’s confidential information to solicit money from, and badmouth his opponents with, more conservative interests hostile to the union. As someone close to the union’s deliberations put it, “It’s uncommon for someone to accept an endorsement with one hand and then use the issues we care about as a bludgeon with the other hand.”

SEIU California Communications Director Michael Cox said Thursday he wouldn’t get into the details.

“Our local unions did not take lightly the decision to rescind Mr. Young’s endorsement. His actions violated the integrity of our member-driven, democratic endorsement process,” Cox said. “Unfortunately, his representations here are not accurate and are of a piece with the behavior that led to the withdrawal of our endorsement.”

Philemon Abraham, Bonta’s campaign coordinator, would say only that “Rob is a very principled candidate, and that’s why he earned and maintains strong support from SEIU.”

And Pat Dennis, Guillen’s campaign spokesman, said Young “needs to learn to live with the consequences of his actions. Despite Joel Young’s spin, the members of SEIU spoke with one voice and took this unprecedented action.”

Rumor has it the Alameda Labor Council will be weighing in on this next week. Stay tuned.

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  • Publius

    A Dem without a union?

    A King without a sword.

    A man without a country.

    This guy is done.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Who knows? Maybe the union could be persuaded to change its mind again.

  • Ben Glass

    Sounds to me like SEIU is punishing the wrong candidates. I don’t see a denial from Bonta or Guillen. So does that mean they’re okay with politicians talking from both sides of their mouth?

  • Reilleyfam

    Petty squabling between politicos.

    WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO FOR ME AS A CONSTITUENT?
    THAT is the real issue.