Battling Over Labor in NY-23

ALBANY—Both Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava and Bill Owens will make a pitch to the Jefferson-Lewis-St. Lawrence County Central Labor Council tonight in Gouverneur, hoping to win its endorsement.

The head of that organization, Ron McDougall, is Scozzafava's husband. And the meeting comes after two endorsements for Scozzafava, a Republican. Last week, Scozzafava announced she was endorsed by the political arm of the United Auto Workers (McDougall is a UAW member) and today, announced the endorsement of the Plattsburgh-Saranac Lake Building Trades Council. Bill Owens, the Democratic Party's nominee, had also sought that endorsement and lobbied for it extensively, according to a Democratic source familiar with the efforts.

Unions are a traditional Democratic constituency, but Scozzafava stands with them on a key issue–the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check–and, partly by virtue of her husband's position, Scozzafava has always had strong support in the labor community.

"Dede enjoys support across party lines in the 23rd Congressional District. People are looking for a candidate who understands the struggles of working class people, and that's Dede," Matt Burns, her campaign spokesman, told me by phone. "The people of the 23rd Congressional District don't have much in common with a corporate lawyer who earned $750,000 last year."

Labor support was critical to Scott Murphy's special election win over Jim Tedisco earlier this year, but given Scozzafava's ties to the community (and support of EFCA) has been expected to sit on the sidelines or split its support. These moves show that Scozzafava is rounding up some boots on the ground; the CLC endorsement would be another big boost.

(I spoke to McDougall briefly on his cell phone, who told me that he has recused himself from this endorsement decision.)

Owens has secured the support of the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters, as well as SEIU 1199, the health care workers union which was principally concerned about that issue. The union spent a lot of money to help elect Murphy.

The Conservative Party's candidate in the race, Doug Hoffman, will not attend tonight's meeting. He's not really a friend of labor unions, and has been blasting Scozzafava for supporting EFCA.

UPDATE: The CLC endorsed Scozzafava.