SEIU vows to play a role in Republican races for Legislature, elect more moderates


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California’s largest labor union announced the launch of a new political action committee Thursday aimed at electing moderate Republicans to the state Legislature.

The announcement by the Service Employees International Union comes as the Citizens Redistricting Commission prepares to release new legislative and congressional maps. Labor leaders say the new electoral environment, coupled with the state’s new ‘top-two’ primary system, will produce more moderate districts, giving them opportunities to wield their clout.


Notably, SEIU declined to put a dollar amount on its effort, only saying ‘we are going to spend as much money as we have to spend to be effective.’ The union estimates it has roughly 87,000 Republican members. On a conference call Thursday, a handful of GOP members described the effort as a chance to moderate a party that has been ‘hijacked’ by conservative activists and political ideologues.

Union leaders demurred when asked whether the committee was also an attempt to pressure Republicans to support taxes in the current budget debate.

‘We’re looking for problem solvers,’ said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721. ‘When you have a revenue shortfall, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to raise taxes. You should look at all the other options first. But I don’t think you should take revenue enhancements off the table either.’

Schoonover said the campaign was aimed at the long term. ‘This won’t happen in a day. The party of Eisenhower and Reagan didn’t get hijacked in a day,’ he said.

[Updated at 1:54 p.m.: Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California Republican Party, dismissed the effort as a veiled campaign by public sector unions to raise taxes.

‘This isn’t about recapturing the party. This isn’t about the working class,’ he said. ‘This is about a major effort to raise taxes even more in California....The brilliance of their program is they are going to use taxpayer-derived money to lobby Republicans to raise taxes.’


Del Beccaro said the state GOP was focused on recruiting volunteers and raising money to counter SEIU’s efforts.

‘I think they’re overplaying their hand, but I’m not taking anything for granted,’ he said.]

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento