Jefferson City—As expected, the Missouri AFL-CIO Executive Committee has endorsed Congressman William “Lacy” Clay in the First Congressional District contest for the Democratic nomination in the Aug. 7 primary election.
The decision sets up a heated contest between two of the state’s major political figures and two of labor’s strongest supporters in Congress.
The AFL-CIO’s decision came after several weeks of intense maneuvering by Carnahan and his supporters in an effort to gain an open endorsement, in which both candidates would get an official approval. That would make it easier for Carnahan to get grassroots and financial support from locals and their international operations in Washington. Most of that support will now go to Clay.
AFL-CIO President Hugh McVey said the endorsement was consistent with the federation’s charter, which favors incumbents with strong records against challengers, even if the challenger also has a strong record for labor.
“Organized labor is standing with Congressman Clay because he has always stood with us,” McVey said. “Lacy Clay has been a fearless defender of American Jobs, American workers, and the right to organize and maintain a safe workplace.”
The endorsement came after a lengthy discussion, said Herb Johnson, secretary-treasurer of the state federation.
“Russ did have his supporters. And we let everyone who wanted to speak, to say what they wanted to. Let’s face it. It was a tough decision. But ultimately, we did the right thing, which is follow, our rules. In the long run, that is in our best interest.”
A disappointed Carnahan issued the following statement after the vote: “I am proud of my labor record supporting working families. ….Missouri working families know that I have been in their corner 100 percent of the time and I will never waiver from my commitment to labor. ……. I look forward to communicating my message and my record to the voters of the newly merged 1st congressional district.”
The Labor Tribune asked Congressman Clay’s office for a statement. But we received no reply.
The contest could have implications later in the Nov. 6 general election by reducing voter turnout in the heavily Democratic First District. The district includes most of Clay’s former district.
But it also includes several thousand voters from Carnahan’s Third District, which was gerrymandered out of existence earlier this year by the Republican controlled state legislature.
The state’s top two Democrats, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon, among other influential Democrats, tried to dissuade Carnahan from making the race. But Carnahan insisted the district did not “belong” to Clay because it had been created anew in the redistricting process after the 2010 census.
The new First District extends south to include almost all of south St. Louis, which was part of the Third District. Most of the district is in north St. Louis and north St. Louis County. Its racial make-up is about 50 percent African American.