A labor source confirmed to TPMDC tonight that the AFL-CIO voted to back new Senate candidate Lt. Gov Bill Halter over Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the May 18 Democratic primary in Arkansas. Three unions within the umbrella group have committed to a $3 million independent expenditure on Halter’s behalf.
In the day since he officially announced his intention to take on Lincoln in the primary, Halter has lined up the support from Democratic base groups, including progressive groups MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Those two, among others, raised nearly $500,000 for Halter from progressives across the country in less than 24 hours.
Lincoln still enjoys the support of at least one prominent national progressive though. The White House says President Obama backs Lincoln as he would any Democratic incumbent.The backing of the AFL-CIO is an important one for any Democrat. For Halter, it signals that the unions are prepared to put their money where their mouth has been for almost a year now when it comes to Lincoln. When Lincoln came out against the “card check” provision in the Employee Free Choice Act, unions balked and threatened to fight her. Now it seems Halter has given them their chance.
Halter now adds the AFL-CIO’s significant support to efforts on his behalf from grassroots progressive groups, which have publicly claimed some of the credit for Halter’s decision to run today. Ben Tribbett, executive director of the progressive PAC Accountability Now and an organizer of the online campaign to draft Halter into the race, promised today that his group’s efforts to help Halter will continue.
Tribbett told TPMDC Monday afternoon that his group plans to be a hub of netroot support for Halter as the primary unfolds. The PAC collected thousands of names of potential Halter donors in the months it spent urging him to enter the race and said it will leverage them to create another funding source for Halter starting now. With the primary just a couple of months away, Tribbett said Accountability Now will devote itself to quickly raising funds for Halter, whose candidacy the group calls its first candidate recruitment success.
“Halter needs to raise hard dollars fast,” Tribbett said. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”
The deep pockets of the AFL-CIO, albeit not directly available to Halter, will likely help him close the resource gap with Lincoln, who has $5 million in cash to spend on on a reelection bid. The AFL-CIO can use its millions on things like independent advertising and field operations targeting Lincoln in advance of the May 18 election.
Not all labor groups have taken sides in the primary yet. When we asked SEIU earlier today what they thought about Halter’s entry into the contest, the union reiterated its past high praise and financial support for Halter, but declined to make an official endorsement in the contest.
“What happens in the Arkansas primary is up to working families there,” SEIU spokesperson Lori Lodes said. “They will be the ones to decide who will work best for them. It’s clear that working families are looking for candidates and elected officials who will do just that, work for them.”
Additional reporting by Christina Bellantoni