Jaffe: D.C. unions show ugly side in backing Brown for council

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Local,DC,Harry Jaffe

Shame on the D.C. labor unions that recently endorsed incumbent Michael Brown for re-election to the city council. Shame on the AFL-CIO, the teachers, the nurses and Hispanic laborers. Shame on the Hotel Association, too.

"The support of such diverse and well-established local organizations serves as a testament to my strong record on the council," Brown crowed in announcing the endorsements.

It's a testament only to the craven self-interest of the labor unions. They are showing their true colors as vested interests more willing to back a flawed politician rather than realize the city where they work is in desperate need of political change.

I say this as a longtime union supporter -- and a D.C. resident.

The at-large council election on Nov. 6 will be a true test of whether voters in the nation's capital can use the democratic process to change a tarnished political system. Two council members have been forced out of office because they admitted to breaking federal law. Mayor Vincent Gray's mayoral campaign has been labelled "corrupt" by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who has prosecuted three campaign staffers. He's still investigating the campaign finances of other council members, including Brown.

Are D.C. voters wedded to usual suspects who have proven themselves to be unworthy of public service? Or do they have the substance and brains to cast their ballots for positive change?

The choices in the at-large race are clear, especially when it comes to Michael Brown. The incumbent -- a Democrat-turned-independent in name only -- has run afoul of campaign finance rules in his last two campaigns. His record of paying taxes and debts is spotty. Former aides and friends have criticized his organization and commitment.

Yet Brown is favored to win in a crowded field. Voters will have the chance to elect two at-large members out of a field of six, which includes another incumbent, Vincent Orange.

David Grosso is the candidate with the best chance of unseating Brown. Born in D.C., Grosso has demonstrated his commitment to the city -- and to labor -- in his work as a staffer for former city council member Sharon Ambrose and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. The D.C. AFL-CIO didn't bother to contact him before it endorsed Brown.

"That was really frustrating," Grosso says. "Maybe that's the way it goes."

The way it goes for the union is that it doesn't bother to interview anyone but its hand-picked candidate. "We decide who to reach out to," says Alya Solomon, a legislative and political assistant. "It's an internal process."

Too internal for me. Truth is, the unions believe Michael Brown will prevail, despite his warts. They have pegged him as the only "viable" candidate.

I hope the voters throw out Brown, and make the unions less viable.

Harry Jaffe's column appears on Wednesday. He can be contacted at hjaffe@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Harry Jaffe

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The Washington Examiner