Auto Workers Union Endorses Shontel Brown In Ohio House Race

Organized labor is divided in a pivotal Democratic primary.

A regional arm of the United Auto Workers announced Monday that it is endorsing Shontel Brown in the race to succeed former Rep. Marcia Fudge in Ohio’s solidly Democratic 11th Congressional District.

The endorsement from UAW Regional 2B, which represents 190,000 active and retired manufacturing workers in Ohio and Indiana, is another boost for Brown, a moderate with strong ties to the Cleveland-area Democratic machine.

“Shontel Brown has stood with us on picket lines. She listens and brings people together, and that makes her a compassionate and effective leader,” Wayne Blanchard, director of UAW Region 2B, said in a statement. “We are confident Shontel will work with President [Joe] Biden and with her constituents to Build Back Better ― and ensure the recovery lifts up Northeast Ohio.”

Brown, a Cuyahoga County councilwoman and chair of the county party, is competing with former state Sen. Nina Turner, who has a national network of progressive support and growing union backing of her own. The race is expected to be another proxy battle between the moderate Democratic establishment and the party’s restive progressive wing.

UAW, the union famous for representing workers at the Big Three American automakers and their many parts suppliers, retains a significant footprint in metropolitan Cleveland and the Great Lakes region. It represents workers at the Howmet aerospace parts plant in Cleveland, among other sites.

Brown, who is less antagonistic to Corporate America than Turner, touted the endorsement as evidence that she is not only the more suitable congressional partner for the Biden administration, but that she is also a champion for workers and their families.

“I hear every day from people in our district who can’t afford some combination of health care, housing, education, and groceries,” Brown said in a statement. “That’s unacceptable and must change. I will work with the Biden Administration and organized labor to create a recovery in Northeast Ohio that lifts all families and workers.”

United Auto Workers Region 2B's endorsement of Shontel Brown shores up her pro-worker credentials in a race against Nina Turner, a progressive former state senator.
United Auto Workers Region 2B's endorsement of Shontel Brown shores up her pro-worker credentials in a race against Nina Turner, a progressive former state senator.
Shontel Brown for Congress

UAW 2B’s endorsement is the latest volley in a frenzied contest between Brown and Turner for the support of organized labor.

The nod is Brown’s 15th union endorsement. But it is her first union endorsement not to come from one of the building and construction trade unions, which often are more conservative than other Democratic Party stakeholders.

Turner has the support of the Amalgamated Transit Union; the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; Bakers, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers union Local 19; and the National Nurses United.

Turner’s labor support tends to reflect the progressive bent of her overall coalition. But unlike Turner, who made her national name as an outspoken supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), at least two of her union backers endorsed either Hillary Clinton in 2016 or Joe Biden in 2020. Their vote of confidence in her suggests a belief that she is also capable of pragmatism.

Turner currently enjoys a major fundraising edge over Brown, who announced on Wednesday that she had raised $500,000. Turner’s campaign, by contrast, said it had raised more than $1 million as of the beginning of February.

Brown has emphasized the local concentration of her fundraising dollars, however, estimating that 60% of her haul came from residents of northeast Ohio. Brown also has the support of a longer list of local Democratic elected officials than Turner does — including that of Rep. Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

But Brown is also likely to benefit from the largesse of out-of-district and out-of-state supporters. She is backed by two national, right-leaning, pro-Israel groups: Pro-Israel America and the Democratic Majority for Israel. DMFI, a super PAC not subject to normal campaign contribution limits, has, in the past, spent more than $1 million on moderate Democratic candidates.

A vacancy opened up in Ohio’s 11th, which includes eastern Cleveland, its suburbs and parts of Akron, when Biden tapped Fudge to serve as his secretary of housing and urban development in December. The Senate confirmed Fudge, who has not endorsed anyone in the race to succeed her, earlier this month.

The special election Democratic primary for Ohio’s 11th is due to take place on Aug. 3. The winner of that contest is the heavy favorite in the general special election against a Republican on Nov. 2.

Five other Democrats are also running: former state Sen. Shirley Smith; former state Sen. Jeff Johnson; former state Rep. John Barnes Jr.; military veteran Tariq Shabazz; and Bryan Flannery, an Anthem health insurance executive who manages labor union plans.

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