Active unionists go one for two in June 5 primaries

Active union members went one-for-two in key June 5 primary races: Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., an Electrical Worker, won easily in New Jersey, while Teamsters 911 shop steward and local union leader Ed Harris lost his race for the San Diego mayor’s chair.

Norcross, former president of the Southern New Jersey Central Labor Council, beat a Bernie Sanders supporter, Alex Law, by 70 percent-30 percent. Harris, the Democratic nominee, won 19 percent in San Diego, running narrowly third in a three-way race.

Incumbent San Diego Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer, stressing bipartisanship in the normally Democratic city, won 60 percent and automatic re-election.

Norcross’ support was wide and deep, from President Barack Obama (D) on down. The president made an unusual endorsement in a contested congressional primary.

“Donald has been there with me on critical issues before Congress in the last two years – and has always stood up for what’s right,” Obama said in his May 31 endorsement letter.

“Ever since his days as a leader of organized labor, Donald has worked tirelessly for working men and women and continues to be a powerful voice in Congress fighting for a higher minimum wage, demanding equal pay for women, and pushing for incentives to create good jobs here in America.

“Donald is the kind of forward-thinking progressive leader we need in Congress. He stood with me to support the Affordable Care Act. He strongly supports a woman’s right to choose. He is fighting for ways to make college affordable for our nation’s youth. And he is working with me to pass stronger laws to crack down on gun violence,” the president added.

Other Norcross backers included his own local-Electrical Workers Local 351 – the Communications Workers, the labor-backed Alliance for Retired Americans, North America’s Building Trades President Sean McGarvey, the New Jersey Education Association, the Service Employees’ state affiliate and New Jersey AFL-CIO and building trades union leaders.

Norcross said he would continue to push for more jobs and safer neighborhoods. His overwhelmingly Democratic district in southern New Jersey is centered in economically depressed Camden.

In San Diego, Harris graciously conceded to Faulconer, but said he would continue to campaign for public safety officers in the seaside city of 1.38 million. Harris was the leader of the lifeguards unit of Local 911 there.

“We raised a lot of issues that are important to San Diego,” he told local television stations. “We moved some things forward – 9-1-1 times, infrastructure and we all live in San Diego, we love San Diego, and so hopefully we raised the issues that are important to people, and those are things that hopefully will be focused on a little bit more.”

Harris did not say if he would run for political office in the future. He served briefly on the San Diego City Council, taking Faulconer’s vacant seat. There, he supported raising the city’s minimum wage, which Faulconer opposed. In a referendum during the June 6 vote, San Diegans approved the hike, 62 – 38 percent. Harris also told local media he intends to step down from his union positions within the next year or so.

Photo: Donald Norcross.  | 


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.