November 10, 2010

CHICAGO (Nov. 10)—Despite a traditional off-year election swing to more conservative candidates, 85 per cent of all candidates endorsed by the UTU Illinois Legislative Board won their races in the Nov. 2 General Election.

“Of the 129 candidates endorsed by the Illinois Legislative Board, 110 were victorious,” said Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “That’s 85 per cent—an excellent percentage in any election and particularly gratifying in a year when many races nationwide went to candidates opposed to the interests of working families.”

In Illinois, the UTU’s most important endorsed candidate, Gov. Pat Quinn, was returned to office in a tight race against challenger Sen. Bill Brady.

Another important endorsed candidate, Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride, was victorious in his effort to retain his seat despite opposition that received strong funding from industry groups seeking a cap on jury awards in damage suits.

In the Illinois Senate, 16 out of 21 endorsed candidates won their races. In the House, 90 out of 102 endorsed candidates won.

The biggest single disappointment for UTU-endorsed candidates was the U.S. Senate race, in which U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk defeated State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Perhaps more disappointing overall was the turnover of the state’s U.S. congressional delegation. Only 10 of the 19 union-endorsed candidates won. Two of the UTU’s strongest supporters, Dist. #17 Cong. Phil Hare and Dist. #11 Cong. Debbie Halvorson lost their re-election bids and will not be returning to Congress.

And although the Illinois General Assembly retains healthy majorities of UTU-endorsed candidates in both chambers, some true friends were defeated in the 2010 election, including 49th Dist. Sen. Deanna Demuzio, Dist. 75 State Rep. Careen Gordon, Dist. 91 State Rep. Michael Smith, Dist. 101 State Rep. Bob Flider, and Dist. 112 State Rep. Jay Hoffman.

“We will miss these friends in the coming session, but if they choose to run again in future elections the UTU will strongly consider endorsing them again if their opponents lack the appropriate pro-union credentials,” Guy said.

“These legislators have proven they understand and will fight for issues such as workplace safety, prompt medical treatment for injured employees, sanitary and functional shelter facilities for railroad crews, a sound retirement program, and the right of working people to collect damages from careless employers,” Guy said. “Candidates who do not support these rights cannot expect the UTU’s endorsement in future elections.”

Guy said the high percentage of union-endorsed winners proves the fundamental soundness of the Illinois Legislative Board’s electoral strategy.

“By focusing on the issues that are really vital to our members and their families we have made friends in both parties,” he said. “The working lives of railroad crew members make a compelling story that few candidates for public office can ignore.”

Guy said the other “vital element in our victory” was member activism.

“Our members have taken ownership of the legislative process by contributing to UTU PAC, visiting legislators in their offices and reaching out to their elected representatives with phone calls and e-mails,” he said.

“It’s this kind of proactive approach by our members that makes candidates for public office take us seriously,” Guy said. “Once again, it was the rank and file that delivered a successful outcome.”