OPINION: POTOMAC WATCH OCTOBER 15, 2009, 6:59 P.M. ET
Creigh Deeds’s Union Label
Big Labor becomes a political liability in Virginia.
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
‘When I’m governor, you won’t just have a friend in Richmond—you’ll have a partner.” So said Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds to union supporters on Oct. 3, 2008.
The question for Mr. Deeds these days isn’t when, but if. And if, as polls suggest, he fails to become governor of Virginia, that loss is shaping up to be as big a judgment on Big Labor as it is on the Democrat.
Last year’s Democratic victories marked a high in the political fortunes for unions. “Tonight does not simply turn a page but begins a new era for America,” bragged SEIU President Andy Stern on election night. Heady on victory and political favors from a new administration, labor turned to replicating their Washington success across the country.
Target No. 1: Virginia. The Old Dominion is the northernmost “right to work” state, and one of only two states that bar collective bargaining for state employees—issues that have long grated on organized labor. Mr. Obama’s win here nonetheless gave unions reason to hope opinions had changed. This year’s election meant a chance at another quick win. Better yet, the Democrat, Mr. Deeds, was a union man through and through. A Virginia victory would be a tactical and symbolic triumph, and pave the way into other union-skeptical states.
It hasn’t turned out that way. Virginia is instead offering evidence that the unions, in one short year, have overreached. Voters are growing uneasy, even angry, over the growing list of political favors showered on labor, and news of its unsavory connections with outfits like Acorn. Mr. Deeds’s union ties are, if anything, proving a liability in his race against Republican Bob McDonnell.
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Virginia gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds at a Labor Day parade.
Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, and current Gov. Tim Kaine, both took union money, though were careful never to highlight the connection. Mr. Deeds didn’t take that precaution. In an 18-year state legislative career, he has a cumulative 92% rating on the Virginia AFL-CIO’s scorecard of votes. He’s refused to denounce national union priorities such as card check. During a rough-and-tumble Democratic primary earlier this year, he visited picketers outside a Hilton hotel.