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Machinists union splits its endorsement

August 31, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers on Thursday endorsed Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Mike Huckabee in the presidential primaries, and Democrat John Edwards picked up the backing of the carpenters union.

The Machinists union has 700,000 members and estimates that a third of the membership votes Republican. It is the first time the union has made a dual endorsement. It chose to do so this year to encourage all members to vote.

Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, beat out Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) for the endorsement. The union only considered candidates who appeared before members during its conference this week in Orlando, Fla.

Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, was the lone Republican to address the conference.

"Mike Huckabee was the only Republican candidate with the guts to meet with our members and the only one willing to figure out where and how we might work together," Machinists President R. Thomas Buffenbarger said in a statement. "He is entitled to serious consideration from our members voting in the upcoming Republican primaries."

For Edwards, his courting of labor finally paid off with his first national union endorsement, from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. The union has 530,000 members, a third of whom say they are registered Republicans, and it has been friendly with President Bush.

Carpenters President Douglas J. McCarron said in a statement that the union believed Edwards would have broad appeal in the general election and that his strong stand on trade and his active work on picket lines "made him the obvious and, to our leadership, only choice in this election."

Asked why Clinton didn't get the union's support, spokesman Monte Byers said: "We don't have anything against Sen. Clinton, but we are concerned that she's surrounded by the same economic advisors who created NAFTA," the North American Free Trade Agreement, which organized labor opposes.

Clinton's Machinists endorsement was her second major union backing this week. She secured the endorsement of the 125,000-member United Transportation Union on Tuesday. The same day, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) won the backing of the 281,000-member International Assn. of Fire Fighters.

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