The Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) is holding its annual 2010 COPE (Committee on Political Education) convention on Saturday. An estimated 400 delegates from labor councils across the state will decide which candidates the WSLC will endorse this election season. PubliCola will be there and maybe we’ll even tweet something.

The WSLC endorsements could potentially reframe one of the biggest races of the year, the contest to fill Rep. Brian Baird's (D-3, SW Washington) open seat. (Baird surprised everyone earlier this year when he announced he's not running for reelection.)

On the Democratic side, where the WSLC's endorsement is obviously going to land, the choice is between two Democratic Party rivals, state Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-49, Vancouver) and frontrunner Denny Heck, a former aide to Governor Booth Gardner, former Democratic state House leader, and the founder of TVW.

Pridemore, the more outspoken liberal of the two, is banking on labor's support to erase his underdog status. He has made a big deal about one of labor's big priorities—getting the Employee Free Choice Act passed by Congress—and we suspect his approach will pay off.

However, WSLC will hear from the locals in the 3rd—the Clark, Skamania and West Klickitat Central Labor Council, the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum CLC, and the Thurston Lewis Mason Counties Central Labor Councils—before the statewide group makes its decision. PubliCola put a call in to all three councils and got the word that the Thurston Lewis Mason CLC is recommending Heck.

“Thurston Lewis Mason (Counties Central Labor Council) recommended an endorsement for Dennis Heck,” said Bob Gunther, President of that council, one of three labor councils in the 3rd. “We did that because we felt that Denny Heck can go back to D.C. and do business immediately, and so we felt that he was a stronger candidate and had a better possibility to win.”

He said that the council believes Heck has a better track record in creating jobs in the 3rd District, and, in a sign that strong greens like Pridemore can have tricky relationships with labor, cited Pridemore’s opposition to a carbon sequestration plant that Energy Northwest wanted to build as one his council's reservations about Pridemore.

A recommendation from Thurston Lewis Mason Counties Labor Council for Heck doesn't sink Pridemore's chances for the WSLC endorsement on Saturday, however. Gunther said he suspects Pridemore will get the recommendation from the council in his home turf of Vancouver—the Clark, Skamania and West Klickitat Central Labor Council. They haven't returned our call. And the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum CLC held its tongue about their decision.

After the WSLC has heard recommendations from all of its central labor councils, a vote will be held and a candidate has to receive at least a two-thirds majority in order to gain the sole endorsement.