Razorback Labor Union Lines Up Behind Blanche Lincoln’s Democratic Senate Challenger

The Arkansas members of a large U.S. labor union Monday announced their support of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the U.S. Senate primary challenge to incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln.

The backing of the United Steelworkers (USW) members in the Natural State adds a dimension to the Halter campaign, which up to now, had attracted support largely from groups on the Left from beyond Arkansas. Such groups have been raising large sums for Halter’s insurgent campaign, aimed at toppling the two-term incumbent. MoveOn.org reportedly has raised in excess of $1 million for Halter.

The USW says that it is the largest private sector union in Arkansas, representing a large slice of the state’s working families.

Those supporting Halter’s campaign say they are disappointed by Lincoln’s tepid support for major Democratic iniatives, such as healthcare reform. Lincoln, running for a third term, also has fallen behind GOP opponents. The Democratic primary election will be May 18.

Lincoln’s progressive opponents complain that she has taken $866,000 in campaign cash from insurance companies and more than $1 million from Wall Street banks.

John “Mickey” Breaux, the director for USW’s District 13, which includes Arkansas, says that rank-and-file members are energized by Halter’s candidacy and are looking forward to educating fellow members, volunteering for his campaign and turning out the vote.

“Our members who live and work in Arkansas understand that we can no longer afford politicians who stand in the way of the creation of good jobs or federal nominees who are needed at agencies on which workers depend,” Breaux says. “We won’t support those who don’t support the right to more easily bargain for a better life or those who obstruct real health insurance reform. We’re done with those who time and time again choose big corporations and Wall Street over Main Street.”

Halter, who announced his candidacy March 1, has supported working families in his role as lieutenant governor as well as in various other political and private sector positions, including serving as a senior advisor at the White House Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration. Despite Halter’s role in his administration, Bill Clinton is supporting Lincoln’s re-election. Halter was elected to his current post in 2006.

“It seems like some politicians in Washington have forgotten about us, everyday people who live and work and raise our families in Arkansas,” says Michael Martin, a machine operator from Malvern, Ark. “Bill Halter is a candidate who will stand with us and work for us, not just big corporations. We’re tired of business of usual. It’s time for change in Arkansas and at the U.S. Senate.”

The USW says that jobs and education are Halter’s top priorities.

“Working families in Arkansas know Halter’s record, including his role in passing a state lottery that sends our kids to college and his work helping the poor get access to health care. This is the kind of voice we need in the U.S. Senate,” Martin adds.

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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