Pennsylvania's largest labor group threw its weight behind a moderate Republican congressman one year after its president warned that union officials may have grown too complacent with the Democratic Party.
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO announced its slate of endorsements in the midterm elections on June 14, which included GOP representative Brian Fitzpatrick. President Rick Bloomingdale said the union is backing the first term congressman over progressive millionaire Scott Wallace after he won approval from local union officials in Bucks and Montgomery County. The union approved of Fitzpatrick's advocacy for dredging the Delaware River and his support for "fair trade instead of the free trade that abandons working people," as well as his tendency to break from party orthodoxy—Fitzpatrick voted against repealing Obamacare and food stamp cuts in the Farm Bill.
"We always tend to look at the record and not just the party," Bloomingdale told the Washington Free Beacon. "We're not the Democratic Party. We're the labor movement. If a guy shows that he's for us, we're for him."
In 2017 Bloomingdale embarked on a listening tour across Pennsylvania to speak with his members about the 2016 election, in which blue-collar workers helped deliver Donald Trump to the White House. Bloomingdale concluded that the union "may have gotten too close to one party." The labor leader said the union had received a record number of responses to its candidate questionnaire in 2018, mostly because of crowded Democratic primaries. But he said there was an uptick in Republican replies, as well. The union has endorsed a number of Republicans for state legislative elections, but Fitzpatrick was the only party member to receive it for a congressional run. Bloomingdale said the congressman stood out with his responsiveness to his local constituents.
"He's done a number of labor roundtables, a lot of townhalls. I don’t agree with him 100 percent of the time … but his record reflects his ‘purple' district," Bloomingdale said.
The union's support of GOP candidates at the state level is one of the reasons Bloomingdale believes Pennsylvania has resisted passing a right-to work-law, even as GOP-controlled legislatures passed such laws in former labor strongholds in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Missouri. "We've always had a good report with both sides of the aisle," he said. While Trump has caused many Republicans to change their approach to trade, Bloomingdale has "not yet seen that filter down to Congress." Fitzpatrick stood out as some who "has worked with [local union leaders] and had an overall record of support."
Fitzpatrick welcomed the union's support—it is posted atop his campaign website's endorsement page. He is the only federal candidate to receive the AFL-CIO's support, which the campaign credited with his middle-class background in contrast to that of "inherited multi-millionaire Scott Wallace."
"The fact that inherited multi-millionaire Scott Wallace is the only Democrat Candidate for Congress in the entire state of Pennsylvania to not receive the AFL-CIO endorsement is further evidence of just how completely disconnected this man is from the middle-class working families in our community," spokeswoman Haley Bova said in an email. "The common working-class men and women in our community want a common working-class representative from Bucks County like Brian, and they categorically reject an inherited multi-millionaire from Maryland like Scott Wallace. It’s that simple."
The Wallace campaign did not respond to request for comment.