One of California's largest labor unions today advanced a plan intended to result in the election of more moderate Republicans.
By creating a Republican political action committee, Service Employees International Union California officials say they hope to help send people from right-leaning areas to Sacramento who put practical solutions in front of strict conservative thinking.
"Our legislators are harangued by radio talk show hosts like John and Ken and D.C. ideologues like Grover Norquist," said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721 in Southern California.
Schoonover, a registered Republican, said lawmakers are afraid to do the right thing.
"We've lost the art of compromise that allows us to make deals in tough times," he said.
Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to round up the four Republican votes needed to reach some sort of deal on sales, vehicle license and income taxes. Schoonover and three other registered Republicans from SEIU said in a conference call that sometimes revenue increases are needed but there could be other solutions as well.
"The problem is if you are not willing to move your position, that's not a good way to solve problems," Schoonover said.
The union says 87,000 of its 700,000 members are registered Republicans. With redrawn legislative boundaries looming and the creation of the top-two primary system, SEIU's new leader Dave Kieffer has said this is the perfect time to start helping candidates to extricate themselves from the grip of party extremists. SEIU is expected to launch its second ad campaign this weekend in the districts of current GOP legislators its officials believe could support Brown's tax package.
"I feel the far right, the tea party, is hijacking my party, and it's saddening," said John Orr, a parking officer at California State University, Fullerton. "I hope through this PAC, this effort and the open primary that moderates can regain their voice."
The union's Golden California Committee will spend as much money as is needed to ensure election of candidates who put a focus on areas such as jobs, schools, health care for the young and elderly and public safety, Schoonover said.
"We are committed to a long-term political struggle to make sure middle-class families have a voice again," he added.
Republican strategist Kevin Spillane said the union wouldn't have a significant effect--no matter how much money the union spends.
"This is just sound and fury," he said. "It's political posturing to influence and intimidate some of the current Republican legislators. The reality is that we're not talking a real widespread impact in next year's elections."
Spillane added that union support would hurt Republican candidates in the eyes of Republican voters. Kieffer said on Wednesday that strategists could make union support an issue in races, but it would not be one that SEIU couldn't overcome.
PHOTO CREDIT: SEIU leader Dave Kieffer visits the Bee Capitol Bureau on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. Lezlie Sterling / Sacramento Bee.