Labor-state bigs to take political scalps

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

New York shows the nation how it's done

Lawmakers who supported a property-tax-cap bill while the Senate was in Albany last week could pay a steep political price. State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes said it's possible the 2 million-member labor federation will withhold endorsements in key races that involve senators who voted "yes" on the cap when its member unions meet for their annual convention next week. "There's talk about holding back," Hughes said.

If that comes to pass, the unions that belong to the AFL-CIO would be free to back any candidates they choose, Hughes said. But the federation won't spend a dime on anyone who fails to win support from two-thirds of its member unions on the convention floor.

Lawmakers told union leaders they were merely acting out of political expedience by passing the tax-cap bill in the Senate, noting the measure is in no danger of becoming law because the Assembly Democrats won't support it, sources say.

The anti-cap contingent was unmoved, however, in part because of the Senate's refusal to consider a "millionaire's tax" to raise revenue in the face of a fiscal crisis.

The tax cap could have been an excuse for labor to abandon its support of the Senate Republicans and back the Dems, who need just two seats to take the majority - but several major Democrats also backed the measure.

The bill originated with Gov. Paterson and was supported by a number of Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith of Queens and Senate Deputy Minority Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx.

"What was once a certainty for endorsements of Republican incumbents is not a certainty anymore," Hughes said. "But in this case, it's not just the Republicans; it's the Democrats as well."


One member of the labor family has decided to remain loyal to the Senate Republicans: The powerhouse health care workers union - Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union. A source close to 1199 confirmed the union will endorse four GOP senators who are among the Democrats' top targets this fall: Serphin Maltese and Frank Padavan of Queens; Caesar Trunzo of Suffolk County, and Joseph Robach of Rochester.

Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) cultivated a close relationship with 1199, which has poured millions into Senate GOP coffers.

Bruno's recent departure sparked speculation that the majority's alliance with labor in general - and 1199 in particular - might be in jeopardy. But so far, 1199 is staying put.

"They [1199] are absolutely solid in their support and there is no concern that with the new leader [Sen. Dean Skelos] there will be any change in the commitment to health care," the source said.


Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh is breaking ranks with the majority of his fellow Democrats to back insurgent Daniel Squadron against veteran Brooklyn Sen. Martin Connor in the September primary. Kavanagh is only the second elected official to support Squadron. The other is U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, for whom Squadron once worked.

The districts Kavanagh and Connor represent overlap on the lower East Side, and the assemblyman said the two have "always been cordial." Connor backed Sylvia Friedman, the incumbent assemblywoman whom Kavanagh toppled in a 2006 primary, as did most elected Dems.

Kavanagh said he's backing Squadron in part because he believes Squadron will remain "independent" in Albany. Knickerbocker SKD, the consulting firm that once employed Squadron, worked on Kavanagh's '06 race, but Squadron wasn't there at the time.


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