Campaign Notebook: Whitehouse secures AFL-CIO endorsement, Sheeler builds tree house

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Senate hopeful Whitehouse endorsed by AFL-CIO

Following a decisive victory in last week’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, Sheldon Whitehouse was endorsed by the Rhode Island branch of the AFL-CIO at its Sept. 14 endorsement convention. The Rhode Island AFL-CIO represents more than 250 local unions and 80,000 people statewide.

Whitehouse, who served as Rhode Island Attorney General from 1998 to 2002, will face incumbent Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee ’75 in November’s general election for Senate.

In his bid for the AFL-CIO’s endorsement, Whitehouse emphasized his dedication to themes important to union workers – increasing the minimum wage and rejecting trade deals that do not sufficiently protect American jobs, for example – in the context of his larger campaign platform, which has been regaining Democratic control of the U.S. Senate and standing up to President George W. Bush.

“I can tell you this: I will never cast that vote to empower the Bush administration and its agenda,” Whitehouse told the 221 assembled delegates, according to a Sept. 15 Providence Journal article.

His words echoed those in a Whitehouse for Senate-sponsored television advertisement that began airing statewide Sept. 13.

“One of the first decisions a senator makes is whether they will vote for a U.S. Senate controlled by the Republicans or led by the Democrats. … A Democratic Senate changes the direction of our nation. Think about it,” Whitehouse says in the advertisement.

Chafee has been particularly criticized for his links to the Bush administration in recent weeks, as national Republicans spend millions of dollars in an effort to secure his re-election.

The AFL-CIO has endorsed only a handful of Republican candidates in the past, but that did not stop moderate Republican Chafee from attempting to secure its endorsement at the convention.

Like Whitehouse, Chafee made his case for the AFL-CIO endorsement to the union delegates present, citing his union-backing record on labor issues during his tenure as mayor of Warwick and in the Senate since 1999. Chafee also has strong relationships with several international unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO President Frank Montanaro told the Journal.

Chafee ultimately chose to address the convention because “at the end of the day, they are all going to vote on November 7,” his campaign manager Ian Lang told the Journal.

A Rasmussen poll conducted Sept. 13, the day after the primary, showed Whitehouse with an 8-point lead over Chafee in the U.S. Senate race, 51 percent to 43 percent. A Rasmussen poll conducted before the primary showed Whitehouse with a lead of just 2 percentage points.

Williams outlines expectations for Ward 2 Democratic City Council Candidate Cliff Wood

Cliff Wood, former director of the city’s Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism, defeated 16-year incumbent Ward 2 City Councilwoman Rita Williams in a landslide victory in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, capturing 972 votes to Williams’ 583.

“People were ready to move Providence a little faster and in a little different direction,” Wood told the Journal.

But Williams and five other council members – including council President John Lombardi – have accused Mayor David Cicilline ’83 of working with the Democratic city chairwoman, Joan Badway, to eliminate them from the council.

Before the primary, Williams compared Cicilline to former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr. “They don’t like it when they can’t control someone,” she told the Journal.

Williams publicized an e-mail she sent to Wood after her defeat in the primary, in which she outlined her expectations that Wood “fight the liquor licenses, attend Zoning Board of Review meetings to support residents … (and) vigorously work for a school at Nathan Bishop, which will draw East Side children back into the public school system.”

“Whatever your view of the Mayor (and he certainly seems to be an improvement), we still need independent and critical city councilpersons watching his administration,” wrote Ronald Dwight ’66, a Ward 2 resident and board member of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, in a community-wide e-mail sent in support of Williams on the morning of the Sept. 12 primary election.

Carl Sheeler offers ‘Post Primary Philosophy’

Less than a week after finishing last in the three-way Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate, former Marine and father of five Carl Sheeler said his family is “just getting on with their lives.”

“By week’s end, my youngest son and I erected a good part of his tree house,” among other things, Sheeler wrote in a Sept. 18 e-mail to his supporters.

Sheeler received 10 percent of the vote in the Sept. 12 primary, compared with 12 percent for Christopher Young and 78 percent for Whitehouse.

Sheeler’s Senate campaign centered largely on his opposition to the Iraq War and those who support it. He drew attention in February 2006 for publicly demanding the impeachment of President George W. Bush, calling on Reps. Patrick Kennedy and Jim Langevin, both Democrats from Rhode Island, to back the proposal of Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., for presidential impeachment hearings.

Sheeler indicated he has received a lot of feedback in the days following the primary.

“Sentiments ranged from ‘You got your ass kicked,’ to ‘You ran an honorable race,'” Sheeler wrote in the Sept. 18 e-mail.

He continued: “Nope, I can’t make sense out of the low voter support. … Any theories about whether the ‘fix was in’ or ‘I should have thrashed Sheldon’s record’ make very little difference after the fact. My plans for the next two weeks or two years are to support my family and the ideals that take this country forward.  It’s patriotic and common sense.”