The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has a reputation for supporting Democratic candidates. But, the controversial labor union is gearing up for an effort that will explicitly support Republican contenders.
The California branch of SEIU is planning to launch a political action committee with the sole purpose of getting moderate GOP candidates elected to California state office. The Capitol Alert has more:
The union says 87,000 of its 700,000 members are registered Republicans. With redrawn legislative boundaries looming and the creation of the top-two primary system, SEIU's new leader Dave Kieffer has said this is the perfect time to start helping candidates to extricate themselves from the grip of party extremists. SEIU is expected to launch its second ad campaign this weekend in the districts of current GOP legislators its officials believe could support Brown's tax package.
"I feel the far right, the tea party, is hijacking my party, and it's saddening," said John Orr, a parking officer at California State University, Fullerton. "I hope through this PAC, this effort and the open primary that moderates can regain their voice."
Kevin Spillane, a GOP strategist, claims that the union won't have much of an impact regardless of how much money it spends. He believes this is simply an effort to intimidate some of the Republican legislators who are currently in office. Spillane does believe, though, that SEIU support could be a negative for Republicans in the eyes of more conservative voters.
NBC's PopZero blog also sees some potential issues with SEUI's plans. To begin with, Republicans may simply use the same electoral strategy:
...the union likely will try to discourage Democrats from running in that district. Instead, the union will back a moderate Republican -- and ask Democratic voters to do the same -- in hopes that the moderate can advance to the general election and defeat whatever conservative Republican candidate emerges in a Republican district.
...If the union can keep Democrats out, you could see the GOP work to put up its own Democratic candidate to draw Democratic votes. This is likely to work to stop the SEIU strategy, for two reasons.
For one, while California's districts tend to lean one way or the other in partisan battles, they are rarely so partisan as to produce two candidates of the same party.
There's no telling how this will end, but it is surely a development to keep an eye on. This isn't the first time that the SEIU has supported Republican candidates, nor is it the first instance in which the group has implemented intriguing strategies. Back in early 2010, the union tried to launch a third party in North Carolina.