If you haven’t been following the race, here’s the capsule background: Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, long represented by Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, was targeted by Democrats in redistricting last year and made significantly bluer. That attracted several Democrats into the race, including state Sen. Rob Garagiola and financier John Delaney. Delaney’s won endorsements from the likes of Bill Clinton (he was a big Hillary supporter in 2008, natch) and the Washington Post, but Garagiola has earned the support of a number of unions and is generally considered to be labor’s preferred candidate.
Fast forward to late last week, when Democrat Rep. Donna Edwards, often lauded as a progressive hero, unexpectedly endorsed Delaney over Garagiola in the primary. It’s not exactly clear why. One unnamed operative suggested Edwards was taking a shot at her rival Steny Hoyer, who is backing Garagiola. My own speculation (not mutually exclusive) is that Edwards, who was very unhappy about the outcome of redistricting, was miffed at Garagiola, who was one of the lawmakers most closely involved in the line-drawing process.
Whatever the reason, some of Edwards’ most important allies are not at all pleased with this latest move:
“She was well aware of who the Maryland state and District of Columbia AFL-CIO’s endorsed candidate is,” Fred D. Mason Jr., president of the state AFL-CIO, wrote in a memo that was blasted to local unions on Thursday. “She had been asked to endorse Rob Garagiola, and barring that to endorse no one.”
Mason wrote that he was “greatly disappointed” by Edwards’ move and that it would “certainly be considered in our future relationships.”
Why should labor expect to have any influence over whom Edwards endorses? Because last year, when well-connected former prosecutor Glenn Ivey initiated a challenge to Edwards in her own primary in the 4th District, unions circled the wagons and made it amply clear they were willing to go to the mat to make sure she got re-elected. Indeed, this message was so effectively sent that Ivey unexpectedly wound up dropping out of the race after just a few months.
So I can understand why some unions would be frustrated with Edwards here. This is little different than voting the wrong way on a piece of legislation of importance to labor. Edwards obviously is free to do what she wants, and indeed she did. But she’ll also have to live with the potential consequences.