U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s campaign got a boost Monday when Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan announced that he was going to veto a highly controversial labor bill. The bill, originally A037, which morphed into “A037 light,” was passed by the Anchorage Assembly last week, and was intended to be a compromise. It wasn’t a big enough one for Sullivan however, who has gone to war with the unions like no other mayor in recent history.
Unless the Anchorage Assembly overrides his veto, which is unlikely, voters will get to decide in November’s general election whether or not to repeal the original A037, which was anathema to the unions and which will galvanize them across the state, particularly in Anchorage, the state’s main population center. If the unions win, the Sullivan-era law will go away and will send a strong message to public officials not to take strident stands against the unions.
This will likely help all Democrats on the ballot and might even help independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker, who has gone out of his way to court the union vote. Mayor Sullivan will be on the ticked as Gov. Sean Parnell’s running mate. But Begich will likely get the most out of it. The unions were always going to support him heavily, but if it goes on the ballot, members have more incentive to get to the polls.
“It’s certainly going to affect motivation,” said Jim Lottsfeldt, who lobbies for unions and runs Begich’s super-PAC Put Alaska First. “The guy that was only going to knock on 20 doors will now knock on 60,” he said.
And if the other Dan Sullivan wins the GOP Senate primary? “My messaging get easier,” Lottsfeldt said.
If nothing else, the unions will spend heavy on an anti-Sullivan campaign.
Even Dan Coffey, who is running for Anchorage mayor and has been a Sullivan supporter, says that it will increase enthusiasm and will help Begich, and will hurt the other Sullivan, if he’s also on the ballot. “The unions are going to be mad at anybody named Dan Sullivan,” he said.
Coffey, it should be noted, said that if he were mayor, he wouldn’t have used his veto pen on this one. He’s not necessarily a fan of public sector unions, nor of “A037 light,” but he doesn’t share Sullivan’s antipathy. And this compromise is a step in the right direction. “Change and better solutions come incrementally,” Coffey said.
Too, Coffey thinks the unions are going to win, as they have repeatedly in the past. Indeed, talk radio and some in the business community have and will continue to spout anti-union sentiment. But they simply don’t put money into their words.
If that happens, labor contracts will be negotiated under the pre-Sullivan code for at least two years after repeal, during Coffey’s first term as mayor, were he to win.
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