There has been a lot of innuendos and misinformation out there about what SEANC/SEIU Local 2008 did and did not do in the decision not to make endorsements in this year's NC state legislative races.
As an elected officer in SEANC, and a member of the 2008-2010 State EMPAC Committee, I was approached by a former Democratic party activist and asked to weigh in. The following is factual and is my own representation of the process that was decided upon for this year's campaign.
First some background:
1. SEANC is a member-driven organization. While the staff is encouraged to offer their opinions and insight into the pressing issues that state employees deal with, only "active" members of the association have the authority to make decisions on the directions of the association.
2. The state EMPAC committee is composed of 18 members elected from around the state to make decisions on endorsements and campaign contributions in primary and general elction races.
3. EMPAC is nonpartisan in its decisions, and each committee member is required to sign a pledge attesting to their commitment to casting votes without attachment to a political party. While many of us choose to be a member of a political party, we are charged with leaving those labels at the door when we enter the meeting.
During the 2009-10 legislative cycle, there were many issues addressed by the majority party, Democrats, that had an impact on the lives of state employees and their families. Several of these issues did not have any direct impact on the state budget, i.e. a bill to greatly reduce SPA protections that was sponsored by Tony Rand and passed overwhelmingly by the democratic controlled Senate, a refusal by the House leadership to permit even a committee vote to transfer control of the state health plan out of legislative control, and repeated refusal by numerous democrats, who said that they "supported" collective bargaining rights for public sector workers, yet never actively fought to bring the bill to a floor vote.
Let me be clear at this point; entering the 2009 session, and with the national and state economies in a tailspin, state employees knew that pay raises would be a non-starter. We focused on those issues that would not have a negative impact on the budget. We sought passage of bills that would protect what we already had, and give state employees and their families hope for a better future when the econmy improved.
Right before the start of the 2010 legislative endorsement process, the State EMPAC committee was called into emergency session in Raleigh. We were asked by our staff, in particular those who spend every day at the General Assembly lobbying on our behalf to consider a recommendation that we make NO endorsements in any state legislative races this year.
In considering this decision, we knew that it could seriously harm the 6-8 legislators who had come to our defense over the years. There was also a recognition that there were some good challengers, a few of whom were solid, active SEANC members, that would be hurt the most by no endorsement and financing.
The entire discussion, debate, and vote on this recommendation was made in OPEN session. Nothing was done in closed executive session. We wanted this process to be totally transparent to all our members and their families. After almost 2 hours of discussion, the final vote was 16-1 to withhold endorsements in all state legislative races for the 2010 general election.
The facts then, are as follows:
1. The decision not to endorse in this year's state races was made in open session by the members of SEANC NOT the staff or executive director.
2. There was a decision made in August by the committee to present, in conjunction with the "Lisa B. Mitchell Legislator of the Year Award," a $4,000 campaign contribution. This was given to the 2009 recipient, Rep. Nelson Dollar, and the 2010 winner, Sen. Doug Berger. These monetary awards were given in Greensboro at our annual convention in September.
3. No funds were given to any individual politician after the November election. There was a contribution given to the republican caucus at a fundraiser after the election, but this has been standard practice toward the majority caucus in past years.
4. During the '04-'08 election cycles, SEANC and SEIU International have given in excess of $2 Million dollars to democratic candidates for legislative and state-wide races.
5. During these same cycles, thousands of man/woman hours have been donated to help these party candidates. Many won, some have not.
6. The only endorsement made this year was to endorse Elaine Marshall, a SEANC member, for her U.S. Senate race. Her campaign also received a $10,000 contribution.