Republican challenger Cathy Muñoz is making some headway in an area where Democrats usually prevail: union support.
Incumbent Democrat Andrea Doll is still winning the bulk of the support, however. That's based on a solid record of supporting workers on issues important to unions in her first two-year term in the Legislature representing Juneau's Mendenhall Valley seat, several union officials said.
"We found Andrea to be a very standup supporter for all of our issues and found she deserved a second term," said Pete Ford, president of the Juneau Central Labor Council.
Doll and Muñoz are vying for the House District 4 seat, representing the Mendenhall Valley, Auke Bay and Lynn Canal areas.
Muñoz is challenging typically Democratic union endorsements, though Ford said that statewide endorsements are split almost evenly among Democrats and Republicans, with only an edge to Democrats.
This time, two important local unions have elected to back Muñoz as well as Doll. The National Education Association of Alaska has endorsed both candidates, the first time they've done that in three elections, President Barb Angaiak said.
"We've got two candidates who are right on our priority issues of school funding and restoring retirement for school employees and public employees," she said.
Both went through an arduous process showing they supported the union's goals, she said. It also was important that both had the support of the Juneau Education Association, as well.
The union has 178 members living in the district and wanted to make sure their important issues were all addressed, she said. The union split its $1,000 campaign contribution, with each candidate getting $500.
A similar thing happened with the Inland Boatmen's Union of the Pacific, said Darryl Tseu, regional director.
"I think we support both candidates," he said. "We had one member of our executive board wanted to support Muñoz, and I'm supporting Andrea Doll, and we gave them both money," Tseu said.
At the Juneau Central Labor Council things didn't go as well for Muñoz, despite finding the members in general support of her positions.
In September, however, the group decided to endorse Doll over Muñoz, Ford said.
"Andrea has been a very strong supporter of all of the CLC's issues, and she's also a very strong supporter of keeping the capital here as well as resisting capital creep," he said.
Ford said the council typically continues to support incumbents who have supported their issues in the Legislature, even when a challenger, such as Muñoz, says the same things.
He said Muñoz, though, demanded that the council either endorse her as well or not endorse anyone, and the interview took on a negative air.
"The interview did take a little bit of a sour twist," Ford said.
Ford said Muñoz had made a strong argument that it was good for Juneau to have members in both caucuses. That may not have been correct, but was a reasonable argument to make, he said.
"Until we took that wrong turn at the end, both candidates were very, every close," he said.
"I wasn't confrontational. I just asked for their support," Muñoz said. Some unions, she said, were very partisan and would not support her despite having a strong record on workers issues.
Tseu said he also doubted whether having a Republican representing Juneau would be helpful.
"When a Republican stands up and says 'this is not right' they usually get hammered and lose their chairmanships," he said.
Tseu said he said he was surprised to see House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, and ardent capital move advocate, endorsing Muñoz.
"How is that going to protect our position as the capital," Tseu asked.
Still, he didn't try to block contributions to someone who also was a ferry supporter and rider.
Ford said the unions will make their endorsements known to members through advertisements, union mailings and newsletters, and home visits.
Ford is president of the council and is Southeast regional manager for the Alaska Public Employees' Association and American Federation of Teachers.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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