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NJ AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. (Photo: Nikita Biryukov)

NJ AFL-CIO backs Democrats in all but one district

Sean Kean earns union endorsement

By Nikita Biryukov, June 12 2019 11:12 am

The New Jersey AFL-CIO has endorsed only one Republican in the races for State Assembly this year and is backing challengers in four districts where Democrats hope to unseat GOP incumbents.

The union is supported Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-Wall) for re-election in the 30th district.  Kean has longtime ties to organized labor.

The only incumbent Democrat to be left off the endorsement list is Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese (D-Cliffside Park). It wasn’t immediately clear why Calabrese did not receive an endorsement.

“This year’s endorsed candidates understand the challenges facing the middle class and will work to put the interests of New Jersey’s working families first,” NJ AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said. “Together, with candidates who support our core values and our many affiliates, the New Jersey labor movement will continue to lead the way forward for the rest of the nation, promoting job creation, quality education, skills training, modernized infrastructure, affordable health care, and a sustainable and secure retirement future for all working families.”

The labor federation endorsed Democrats in every district but the 24th – they took a pass entirely — and declined to back any of Kean’s 30th district rivals or the other Republican assemblyman, Ned Thomson (R-Wall).

In the special election for State Senate in the 1st district, the union endorsement went to incumbent Bob Andrzejczak (D-Middle) in his race against Cumberland County GOP Chairman Michael Testa, Jr.

In 2017, the AFL-CIO declined to back Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) in his bid for re-election to the State Senate, staying out the race entirely.

The AFL-CIO backed Democratic challengers in districts where the party is looking to pick up seats to expand its majority in the legislature.

Endorsements went to Democrats Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale in the 8th against Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) and former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield.  Two years ago, the union steered clear of the Assembly race but endorsed George Youngkin over State Sen Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham), who was a Republican at the time.

Lisa Bhimani, who is running for Assembly in the 25th, has now received her second endorsement from the AFL-CIO. The group endorsed her State Senate bid against Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Boonton) in 2017.

The union is also backing Bhimani’s running mate, Darcy Draeger.

In the 21st district, Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman nabbed the union endorsement in their bids to unseat Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Assembly Minority Whip Nancy Munoz (R-Summit).

Westwood Mayor John Birkner, Jr. and Emerson Councilman Gerald Falotico won endorsements in the bid to oust GOP incumbents Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) and Robert Auth (R-Old Tappan) in the 39th district.

The AFL-CIO also backed Democratic opponents in districts 21, 25 and 39 two years ago.

In the 36th legislative district, the union endorsed Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) but not Calabrese.

In 2017, the state AFL-CIO endorsed Schaer and his running mate, New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride, who was then an Assemblywoman.

“After last year’s historic victory for working families, the labor movement will once again mobilize to secure across-the-board victories for pro-worker candidates and strengthen the voice of organized labor throughout New Jersey,” Wowkanech said. “Now, more than ever, with the constant attacks on workers’ rights, it is crucial that we expand working family representation at all levels of government and elect leaders who support collective bargaining and the guiding principles of the labor movement.”

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