Labor Brags About the Owens Win

SARANAC LAKE—It did come down to a battle of the boots here in the 23rd Congressional district, and the unions which aligned by Bill Owens at the last minute are touting their victory.

“The late labor candidate won,” said Ron McDougall, the president of the Jefferson-Lewis-St. Lawrence Central Labor Council (and the husband of Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava) told me. “Certainly there was an intensified effort in the end. There were some leaders that hardly took a minute off.”

“The plumbers union is never wrong,” boasted Larry Bulman, the political director for the New York State Pipe and Trades association (and Saratoga County Democratic chair) after last night’s victory. His union, unlike McDougall’s organization, has supported Owens for weeks. “We have the harder workers. People take us for granted, but it’s the unions that win these races.”

Other organizations came around later. A spokesman for NYSUT, whose war room I visited on Monday evening, told me this morning that the union had 300 activists handing out leaflets and making phone calls for Owens in the final 72 hours. Denis Hughes, president of the New York AFL-CIO said “with only hours to prepare, and less than three days to implement its strategy, labor’s ground forces knocked on thousands of doors and made close to 150,000 phone calls.   In less than 72 hours, organized labor mobilized hundreds of volunteers on the streets in the 23rd Congressional District.”

And these supporters often overlapped with those of Scozzafava, as David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. At the same time, he says, Hoffman’s ground game didn’t rise to the occasion.

“This is a geographically enormous district where the largest town is only 28,000 people and voters pride themselves on living in a land apart,” Wasserman wrote. “The fierce out-of-district support that Hoffman generated from grassroots conservative groups caused a backlash among many voters who felt as if outsiders were meddlesome and dismissive or ignorant of myriad local issues, ranging from saving Fort Drum to repairing the Champlain Bridge.”