The Service Employees International Union 775, traditionally big backers of Democratic candidates and progressive causes (most recently they spearheaded the $15 minimum wage fight), will not comment any further on the jarring news that they've endorsed state Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Kirkland).
Sen. Hill, the senate Republican budget leader, is the linchpin in the Democrats' precarious mouse trap diagram to take back the senate. Hill fared the worst of any Republican in the August top-two primary, getting 53.8 percent (as opposed to the convincing 56-plus numbers that his GOP comrades—who've also been targeted by the Democrats—got); Hill's opponent, Navy vet and Amazon manager Matt Isenhower, was the only Democratic challenger to cross the 45-percent-legit-challenger threshold, getting 46.2 percent.
After getting a generic statement from SEIU 775 last week, today, we asked their outspoken leader David Rolf for an explanation; Rolf is a fiery lefty, and we were, frankly, bemused that he and his union would jeopardize the Democratic party's gameplan by helping Hill in a swing district where liberal cred like a nod from SEIU 775 could blunt Isenhower's efforts to portray Hill as a drastic conservative who's out of step with the moderate Eastside.
We asked Rolf to do a Cola One (or two or three) Question today to clarify why a Republican state senator with a 13 percent lifetime labor voting record—and zero percent in the 2013 session when Hill voted to undo Seattle's sick leave law, voted to repeal the family medical leave act, and voted for giving employers an option to wiggle out of overtime pay and the minimum wage—earned SEIU's endorsement.
Our questions for Rolf:
1. Was there a specific vote that Hill took that compelled you to endorse him?
2. How do you reconcile SEIU 775's progressive stance with Hill's budget positions—adding tax breaks to the budget; demanding that education is funded first, at the expense of social services; and flummoxing the statewide transportation package by refusing to pass funding until GOP reforms, such getting rid of prevailing wage salaries on roads projects, are on the books?
3. If the the GOP holds court in the senate and blocks the Democratic agenda this year—including Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's call to raise the minimum wage, his proposal to rein in carbon emissions, and his legislation to close corporate loopholes—will you regret your Hill endorsement?
Consider: If, thanks to a GOP majority, Inslee fails to deliver on his agenda, SEIU 775's sunk costs in 2012 (they maxed out to Inlsee), will give way to hefty financial demands in a tough 2016 campaign?
Rolf's spokesman simply said the union stands by its earlier statement. And SEIU 775's secretary treasurer Adam Glickman told us to check out 775's recent contributions for a fuller take on the situation.
Here's what we found: SEIU 775 has contributed $60,000 to the state senate Democrats' PAC, the Kennedy Fund, giving the second highest contribution behind the statewide SEIU umbrella group (for all SEIU locals), which has contributed $100,000 to the Kennedy fund.
Additionally, SEIU 775 has contributed directly to four state senate races, going with the Democratic candidate in three of those races—contributing $950 to Rich Cowan against Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane); contributing $1,900 to state Rep. Tami Green (D-28) against state Sen. Steve O'Ban (R-28); and Seth Fleetwood got $950 against state Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42).
As for the Hill/Isenhower race, SEIU 775 gave Sen. Hill $750 in July. A Hill victory could make the rest of SEIU's heavy spending all for naught.