LORAIN, Ohio — One Central Labor Federation in northern Ohio has really taken the national AFL-CIO resolutions on political action to heart, at least the part that calls on union members to run for office. Four leading delegates of the Lorain County Labor Federation, just west of Cleveland on the shore of Lake Erie, are running for public office. Not only are they running for office, but most are expected to be elected.

Tony Krasienko, acting president of the Lorain County CLC, is the leading candidate for mayor of Lorain. The present mayor, Craig Foltin, a lonely elected Republican in this blue-collar Democratic stronghold, is not running for re-election.

Foltin was the GOP hopeful in the 13th Congressional District to fill the seat left open last year when longtime progressive congressional representative Sherrod Brown ran for Senate against incumbent GOP Sen. Mike DeWine.

Conventional wisdom, at least according to political pundits in Ohio, was that Sherrod was “too liberal” to beat incumbent senator DeWine. Foltin, a Republican from industrial Lorain, would be able win “swing voters” and win that congressional seat for the GOP, (or so they said).

Defying these “political experts,” Foltin was trounced by Betty Sutton, a state representative who is also an attorney representing the Steelworkers union (USW). Sherrod Brown also soundly defeated DeWine, running a strong campaign based on “mainstream progressive values.”

Organized labor was the main force fueling this upsurge against the GOP and the ultra-right. Democrats were also elected to all county positions.

Rather than a boost for the Republicans, Foltin and the GOP received the boot from local voters, paving the way for Kraseinko’s mayoral race. He is facing no primary opponent, which is comparable to victory in this overwhelmingly Democratic area.

Tony “Red” Zampieri, veteran USW and SOAR leader, stated, “We need strong leaders for the working class of people. Nobody knows our issues, how we’ve suffered and what our fights are more than other union folks. We need to elect not just folks who say they’re ‘for us,’ but folks who really are us. They’re the one’s we can trust!”

David Flores, a veteran officer of the Lorain County CLC and a longtime community leader, is running a very strong campaign for councilman-at-large in Lorain. A leading progressive activist, Flores is running strong and is expected to be elected in the May Democratic primary. As with the mayor’s race, this equals an almost automatic November victory.

“For too long the haves have gotten everything, while the rest of us were supposed to just set back and take it,” said Flores. “We just can’t depend on others to lead the fight for our issues, like health care, education and peace.”

Glenn Loughrie, another CLC delegate and USW Local 1104 PAC chair, is running a strong race for the 2nd Ward Council seat against an incumbent Democrat in nearby Amherst. It is Glenn’s first run for office, but he is widely seen as having the high ground in this race.

New CLC delegate Jeff Newman from the Pipefitters Union is also making a first time run for council in Lorain.

In nearby Elyria, UAW leader Art Webber is expected to be reelected as a leading member of that city’s council. He should be joined by another veteran UAW leader, Larry Tanner, on the Elyria City Council.

The strong independent labor activism in Lorain county was fueled by an historic labor-led victory over Wal-Mart here two years’ ago. Supported by leading members of both the Republican and Democratic parties, Wal-Mart made a push to re-zone Lorain to allow the construction of a superstore here.

Outspent over 100-1, unions worked with a local community group to mount a strong grassroots campaign. Defying all the experts’ predictions, the union-led campaign won a huge victory, winning every ward in the city of Lorain.

“Who better than our own people to represent our own interests,” stated Joe Thayer, organizer for the Sheet Metal Workers Union and a leader of the anti-Wal-Mart people’s coalition. “For way too long we’ve worked hard to elect folks calling themselves our ‘friends’ who take our votes, but then stab us in the back. Workers will stand up best for worker’s rights!”

Since that struggle, organized labor in this area has begun to push union members to run for office, in alliance with other progressives. As part of last year’s Democratic sweep, SEIU leader Sue Morano defeated a long-term incumbent Republican to be elected to the Ohio state Senate. Progressive Democrats Matt Lundy and Matt Barrett also defeated GOP incumbents to be elected to the Statehouse.

Labor-led electoral alliances are being built throughout Ohio, with the help of the AFL-CIO, ARA and their coalition partners. The Lorain developments are expected to serve as a positive example for this growing movement.

bruce161 @centurytel.net

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