Wednesday, June 07, 2006

‘Betrayed’ Unions Refuse To Endorse Bean’s Re-Election

The Daily Herald
Joseph Ryan and John Patterson

SPRINGFIELD — The state’s trade and labor unions refused to endorse Democratic Congresswoman Melissa Bean’s re-election bid Tuesday, a rejection that amounts to political payback for her vote against the unions’ wishes on trade deals.

Illinois AFL-CIO President Margaret Blackshere said the debate over whether to endorse Bean in the 8th Congressional District was the most heated of any office in the state.

Blackshere said union members “felt betrayed” by Bean’s vote for a Central America trade pact last year.

Bean, who relied on union support to oust 35-year Republican incumbent Phil Crane, responded to the rejection by largely ignoring it.

“My highest priority is standing up for the moderate, mainstream values of my constituents,” she said in a statement.

The union blow to Bean is yet another turn in what is shaping up to be a fierce battle over whether 8th District residents are turning more Democratic or still staunch conservatives who simply had tired of Crane.

Bean, a Barrington sales consultant who paints herself as a moderate Democrat, is facing former investment banker David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, who styles himself a “Reagan conservative.”

Blackshere said there was no interest in backing McSweeney.

“Absolutely not,” she said.

A third-party candidate, Bill Scheurer of Lindenhurst, is banking on a revolt of unions and anti-war advocates against Bean. It remains to be seen if he can muster the signatures to get on the ballot.

The union dumping of Bean started last year, when she was one of a handful of Democrats to vote for the Central America trade agreement.

Soon after, a machinists union signed a $5,000 check for Scheurer’s campaign and other unions picketed Bean’s Schaumburg office.

Bean voted with the AFL-CIO’s wishes 62 percent of the time, but union leaders asked to pull her name from a list of endorsements for further debate. After a heated exchange behind closed doors, the decision was made not to endorse her.

A few union leaders have claimed Bean promised to vote against such trade deals during the 2004 campaign, but she denies such a pledge. She defends the vote, saying many district residents work for international businesses in Lake and Cook counties.

Yet Bean is also drawing accolades from the big businesses. In March, she picked up the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Spirit of Enterprise” award for voting 73 percent of the time with the lobbying organization.


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