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IL-SEN Thu Sep 24 2009

SEIU Endorses Giannoulias; Hoffman Campaign Responds. Subsequently, Giannoulias Campaign Responds (To Initial Response). Hoffman Campaign Highlights Differences of Association (in subsequent response).

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) IL State Council, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees in Illinois, gave their endorsement in the Senate primary to state Treasurer and current front runner Alexi Giannoulias, over competitors Cheryle Jackson of the Urban League and former City Inspector General David Hoffman.

Hoffman's campaign characterized the endorsement thus:

The National GOP is champing at the bit to make the 2010 U.S. Senate election in Illinois all about former Governor Rod Blagojevich. This morning, the Alexi Giannoulias campaign is serving them up a free punch, trotting out an endorsement from the union leadership that was Blago's biggest supporter and whose president was completely enmeshed in the controversy over Rod's attempt to sell this Senate seat. (He even appears on the infamous Blagojevich wiretap!)

and, to give fair context,

You can bet Giannoulias will sit silently on the dais and smile broadly as he receives the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) leadership, just as he did when the Blagojevich controversy first surfaced. He doesn't rock the boat, and he's no doubt excited about stepping up to the same trough that netted Blagojevich more than a million dollars in campaign cash...It's not the janitors, health care workers, security personnel and other hard-working SEIU members who are the problem. It's not even the idea that the SEIU endorses candidates and puts its political power to use. We support the rank-and-file and their agenda for social justice. We take issue with the SEIU leadership-- the same leadership who once stood next to and endorsed Blagojevich as his strongest champions...

When asked for a comment about this reaction to their endorsement, a Giannoulias campaign spokesmen said in a statement,

"The working men and women of SEIU have fought for progressive policies, independent leaders and middle class families and Alexi Giannoulias is proud to stand with them and their fight to change Washington. It is not lost on us or progressives to see Hoffman, a guy who worked for ultra conservative judges Rehnquist and Jacobs, echo a Republican smear campaign against working families."

Hoffman's campaign's statement is unfair on one point at least--to say that Local 1 and State Council President Tom Balanoff was "enmeshed" in the Senate-seat-for-sale scandal isn't accurate as a matter of opinion or fact. Balanoff took a call from the governor--being on the wiretaps is not evidence of anything other than a union leader taking a call from the governor of his state.

SEIU Illinois did give Blagojevich enormous sums of money and volunteers in both of his gubernatorial bids, and were an integral part of his overall governing coalition in Springfield. The Blagojevich poison has infected both good progressives and hacks; the progressive groups and individuals who had turned on Blagojevich before his 2006 reelection are fairly few and far between. I don't doubt that SEIU's leaders want to put the Blagojevich era behind them, despite the benefits they gained under his governorship.

There's nothing in Hoffman's campaign's post that "smears" SEIU's rank-and-file, or the causes for which they fight; the unfocused criticism is of the union's leadership as state insiders (which, of course, they are). The campaign's apparent disdain for union leadership as opposed to rank and file is not something alien to progressives or the labor movement--but in a political fight at this level, jabbing at the leadership with this type of characterization just opens Hoffman up to accusations of alienation from progressive institutions. SEIU is an enormous engine for progressive causes in Illinois--not least of which as underwriters of Progress Illinois.

When asked if they had a clarification, a Hoffman campaign spokesman provided the following statement,

Nobody's attacking the hard workers and the many good works of the SEIU. We are simply raising the question of how Alexi Giannoulias can claim he stands for change while standing with the same insiders who brought us Rod Blagojevich -- and were even caught on Rod's wiretaps about selling this very Senate seat.

It's odd that the Giannoulias campaign would highlight Hoffman's long resume, where he has worked in the highest levels of all three branches of national government. We welcome a comparison of achievements and experience levels between these two candidates.

We also welcome a closer comparison of business associates between the two. That's comparing the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court with some of the shady characters who have received loans from the Broadway Bank.

This is all the Giannoulias campaign has to offer against David's candidacy. It's not much. We look forward to February 2.

There you go.

The State Council's Executive Board (listed here) votes on endorsements. The executive board members are in turn appointed by the boards of their respective locals. The Giannoulias campaign's reference to Rehnquist and Jacobs can be clarified by this post.

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