In a rare move, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO has endorsed a Republican candidate for statewide office – Catherine Taylor, who is running for lieutenant governor against Democrat Dan McKee, the mayor of Cumberland.
In a statement, George Nee, president of the state AFL-CIO, said, `` the Rhode Island AFL-CIO is proud to endorse Catherine Taylor for the office of lieutenant governor.’’
``Catherine’s understanding of the many challenges everyday Rhode Islanders face, along with her established track record of listening to the concerns of her employees while running the Division of Elderly Affairs, makes her the right choice for lieutenant governor.’’
Rhode Island organized labor groups traditionally endorse Democratic candidates for state and federal offices, or occasionally remain neutral if there is a compelling Republican candidate labor leaders believe will give them a fair hearing on issues dear to their members.
McKee’s strong advocacy for charter schools may have been a factor in the endorsement of Taylor. The statement from Nee offered no criticism of McKee; it simply praised Taylor. It takes a two-thirds vote of the AFL-CIO’s executive board to win an endorsement.
No Republicans for any state or federal offices have won the endorsement of the AFL-CIO – a coalition of more than 250 local member unions representing about 80,000 workers – since 1986. That year the union group supported former State Sen. Jack Lyle, who ran for secretary of state as a Republican and then-U.S. Rep. Claudine Schneider, a moderate Republican who represented the state’s 2nd Congressional District.
In 1998, the AFl-CIO took no position in the R.I. gubernatorial campaign between Democrat Myrth York and Gov. Lincoln Almond, the incumbent Republican. Almond won that race.
``Rhode Island’s working families deserve a lieutenant governor who cares about them,’’ said Maureen Martin, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. ``Throughout her long tenure as director of elderly affairs, Mrs. Taylor showed compassion and concern not only for seniors, adults with disabilities and families, but also for the many workers who provided care for some of Rhode Island’s most vulnerable citizens.’’