Southern Illinois union leaders expect tough GOP opponents

Charles Bailey, a member of Steamfitters Local 439, voted at Wolf Franch Middle School in the Illinois primary election March 20. He and his wife, Mary, were among thousands of working familieis throughout Illinois who turned out to vote for labor friendly candidates. Labor Tribune photo

East Alton—Union leaders in Southern Illinois were pleased with the results of the March 20 primary election, but are looking forward with some apprehension at difficult and expensive campaigns for labor-endorsed candidates in the November general election.

“Nearly all our candidates were unopposed, except for Harriman, who won overwhelmingly,” said President of the  Madison County Federation of Labor Dean Webb. “That was a good win for us, but he’s going to have a tough road ahead of him in November so we’re gonna work our butts off for him.”

Webb was referring to Brad Harriman, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the Twelfth Congressional District, who won the nomination handily with strong support from unions in Southern Illinois.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello has occupied the district for more than 20 years. But he announced his retirement this year and the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted the district as one of six open seats in the country they believe they can win.

Harriman’s Republican opponent is Jason Plummer, a 29-year-old millionaire heir to a lumber company fortune who was the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010, a race he lost.


The twelfth district extends from southwestern Madison County and St. Clair County south along the Mississippi River to Kentucky. It includes Belleville, Columbia, Pinckneyville, Du Quoin, Benton, West Frankfort, Marion, Herrin, Desoto, Carbondale, Anna and Cairo.

At an election night victory party in Belleville, Harriman told the Labor Tribune: “I was raised in a union family. I know what the union did for my father and his family and I’m here to fight for that.”

“Organized labor is important to this region and this district because it sees to it that working men and women earn a living wage, can raise a family, and can have a decent level of comfort in their lives. We see it all around us, states are going to Right-to- Work (for less), and I’m adamantly opposed to that.”

Harriman had a 33-year career in education after a brief shot at pro-football with both the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills. Most recently he served as regional Superintendent of Schools for St. Clair County. Prior to that he taught at the St. Clair Co. Juvenile Detention Center where he taught middle and high school kids charged as juveniles and under the age of 17.

Harriman has spent several months getting more acquainted with labor and Democratic leaders in the southern part of the district.

Union leaders say that he has made a good impression and created a good network of support. They expect him to make a strong race against an unprecedented onslaught of Republican money flowing into Plummer from all over the country.


Andy Manar won the Democratic nomination in the State Senate 48th District, which spreads northeast from the Metro East region over six counties and includes Decatur and Springfield.

“I opened a campaign headquarters in Staunton in early March,” Manar said. “Organized labor showed up for the opening in huge numbers. Members from Laborers Local 338, Pipefitters Local 553, Teamsters Local 525, Machinists Local 660 and the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council were here to lend their support.”

“Andy’s speaking of the number one issue on people’s minds right now and that’s jobs,” said Dale Stewart, Executive Secretary/Treasurer of the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council.” Andy gets it. He knows that infrastructure investment means jobs.”

Stewart was an early supporter of Manar, who is county executive of Macoupin County and chief of staff to the senate leader at the state capitol. “He’s one of the most capable young public officials I have dealt with. I think he has a very promising future if he can win this race. He will have strong Republican opposition, so he will need all the help we can give him in the labor community.”

State Sen. Bill Haine of Alton and State Sen. Jim Clayborne of East St. Louis won renomination easily and are not expected to have serious GOP opposition in November.


State Sen. Gary Forby won re-nomination in the 59th State Senate District of deep Southern Illinois.

Jason Woolard, president of the Southern Illinois Central Labor Council, said Forby is facing a formidable and well-financed opponent in Republican Mark Minor.

“It looks like Gary will have tough competition. People will have to get out and work for him if we want to keep labor-friendly people in the state capital.

“With Forby having a strong voting record for labor, we as union members have an obligation to get out an vote. If we don’t get out and vote, we may all be disappointed in the outcome.”


Judy Cates, a Belleville attorney, ran unopposed in the March primary, but expects stiff competition this fall in her race for the 5th District Appellate Court, which covers 37 counties in southern Illinois.

“The Appellate Court is the last court where an appeal ends up. Few cases go to the Supreme Court,” Cates said. “Decisions made by the Appellate Court, even though they may be made in Southern Illinois, they are used by judges in Chicago and other parts of the state as precedent. So if we make a decision down here that is good for organized labor, that same decision can be used by judges in Chicago and middle parts of the state to help form their decision.”

Cates has been visiting unions and public events throughout the 5th District creating name recognition and appreciation for her record of defending injured workers and working on other legal problems affecting working families.

                      MADISON COUNTY CIRCUIT CLERK

Mark Von Nida is running for Circuit Clerk in Madison County with labor’s endorsement. . He says he plans to run the office completely on fees by streamlining the operation and through further computerization.

“Generally speaking people who go to court are not having a good time,” he said. “Both criminal and civil. Now the clerk doesn’t run the court, but the clerk assists the judges by running the administrative part of the court’s work. People need to know they’re going to be treated fairly and efficiently.”

All of the candidates that the Labor Tribune talked with were asked the same question: What can labor do for you? The answer was the same – “talk with your friends and families about candidates you like and get yourself and them out to vote this November.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here