weirauch.jpgSeth Michaels, our AFL-CIO presidential website coordinator, joins me in writing this week’s labor blog. Thanks, Seth!

So what if the 2008 primaries are literally days away? We still have work to do in the 2007 elections.

On Dec. 11, a special election in Ohio’s 5th Congressional District pits a hangover from the old Ohio Republican agenda against a progressive who’s willing to fight for working families. The business-as-usual state representative, Bob Latta, won a nasty primary to become the Republican nominee. Democrat Robin Weirauch opposes bad trade deals, supports the pro-worker Employee Free Choice Act and has spoken out against Bush’s maneuvers to deny health care coverage to millions of the nation’s children.

But Weirauch faces an uphill battle: She’s stumping in a district that gave Bush 61 percent of its vote in 2004. The seat was held since 1989 by Paul Gillmor, a Republican whose death Sept. 5 created the vacancy. So we in the union movement are making a big push to help. This special election is about working families in Ohio. But it’s also one more step toward our Labor 2008 get-out-the-vote mobilization, as we shoot for the trifecta: a progressive House, Senate and presidency.

The two candidates couldn’t more clearly represent the national political pattern we’ve seen emerge in recent years: corruption v. progressivism. Latta last month was reprimanded by the Ohio Elections Commission for making false statements about his primary opponent and has taken donations from Tom Noe, the Republican fundraiser imprisoned in corruption scandals last year. Weirauch, who understands the economy of northwest Ohio and is committed to improving it, made her campaign announcement at a shuttered factory and promised to fight for good jobs. Speaking of the factory’s former employees, Weirauch said:

For too many, this is a very familiar story in these parts. Too many of our neighbors have worked hard and played by the rules with the promise of economic security and a good pension and health care into their golden years. But unfortunately they found those promises to be shattered. In fact, Washington isn’t listening to these stories.

Even though Bush and Gillmor ran up big margins in this district, national Republicans are clearly worried. Recent campaign filings show the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is spending $280,000 on mailers and a TV ad in this district. And just yesterday, Red State issued a call for assistance. In "Bob Latta in OH-5 Needs Our Help," Red State noted Latta is "running against a huge lefty" and is ahead by only 3 percentage points.

Heavy Republican spending here is a major blow to NRCC funds, as the committee reported only $2.6 million on hand—and $3.6 million in debt—as of the end of October. In short, Republicans are spending money they don’t have in an attempt to save a seat they had claimed was safe.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is helping out by airing a tough ad exposing Latta’s ties to Noe and convicted criminal and former Republican Gov. Bob Taft.

Weirauch, assistant director for the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State, is calling for a moratorium in bad trade deals and says any future trade deals must have worker protections built in. Weirauch plans to

shake things up and take on the real issues that affect our families, creating good paying jobs by renegotiatiating trade agreements to protect American workers.

She also advocates tax incentives for companies that keep manufacturing jobs here, rather than moving them abroad. She understands, at a fundamental level, that Ohio’s economy isn’t working for everyone, and one way to help improve it is through a strong union movement.

What does Latta say? Well, not a lot, judging by his website, which doesn’t even have an “Issues” section. What would Latta do to fight for fair trade, affordable health care or workers’ rights? He’s not bothering to tell us. But we can look at his record in the Ohio House—and there we see he cast one of the “no” votes that killed the 2008–2009 budget bill in the Ohio state House that would have expanded health care and reformed education.

The union movement is putting the same kind of energy into this race we’re known for. In 2006, we mobilized 205,000 volunteers, knocked on more than 8 million doors, made 30 million phone calls and delivered 20 million milers and 14 million worksite fliers. In 2007, AFL-CIO efforts helped elect pro-worker leaders in Virginia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Thousands of union volunteers delivered presidential-levels of turnout for state and local races.

Our friend of labor Miss Laura at Daily Kos points out that Friday is the last day to contribute to Weirauch’s campaign. She lists many options for doing so here.

The best places to follow this race are on the Ohio blogs, including: As Ohio Goes, Buckeye State Blog and Ohio Daily Blog. And if you have a Facebook page, there’s a Robin Weirauch for Congress group.

Uphill? So what. We have to go for it.

___________________________________________________________Paid for by the AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education Political Contributions Committee, www.aflcio.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.