Maine Sen. Susan Collins is touting endorsements of three unions at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as the Republican and her Democratic challenger, Shenna Bellows, compete for the organized labor vote.
Unions often align with Democratic candidates these days because of the growing schism between organized labor and the Republican party (evidenced in Maine by Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s combative relationship with organized labor). And Bellows has wracked up numerous high-profile union endorsements in the campaign so far.
But Collins – a moderate Republican seeking a fourth term in Washington – has landed a number of endorsements from organized labor groups.
On Thursday, she held an event at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard highlighting recent endorsements from three unions at the Kittery facility: the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades - New England Council and the New England Council of the Laborers’ International Union of North American.
Collins has also been endorsed by all four unions at Bath Iron Works shipyard, a fact that her campaign featured in its first television ad to counter Bellows’ attempt to position herself as the candidate for working-class Mainers.
Bellows, meanwhile, has landed an endorsement from the Portsmouth Metal Trades Council, which represents blue-collar workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
The Democrat also has a lengthy list of endorsements from other unions. That list includes: all of the Maine chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Maine State Employees Association-Service Employees International Union, the 45,000-member AFSCME Council 93, the Maine State Nurses Association and the Maine AFL-CIO (although not all of the AFL-CIO member unions have endorsed Bellows).
The competition for union endorsements between the Democrat and Republican in the Senate race is unique among this year’s high-profile political competitions in Maine – and nationally, to some extent.
Don’t expect to see too many unions (or any, for that matter) endorse LePage’s re-election campaign given past clashes over “right to work” laws and the labor movement mural that hung in the Department of Labor building until LePage took office. Likewise, Republican Bruce Poliquin hasn’t received any endorsements in his race against Democrat Emily Cain for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
Of course, endorsements from organizations don’t always translate into a surge in votes from people outside of those groups. But unions bring with them a well-organized and well-connected network of members often willing to make phone calls, hand out pamphlets or knock on doors for a candidate.
So expect both the Bellows and Collins to continue to seek union endorsements – and trumpet them when they get them.