UPDATE:Whatever conversations congressional candidate Ricky Wilkins or any of his surrogates may have made with members of AFSCME’ Local 1733, it is becoming ever more apparent that the Wilkins campaign’s decision Monday night to announce an endorsement by AFSCME of his candidacy was premature, at best, and unlikely or simply untrue, at worst.
The putative endorsement was vouched for in a press release from the Wilkins campaign which further announced that an 11 a.m. press conference would be held Tuesday at AFSCME’s Beale St. headquarters. Came 11 o’clock Tuesday morning, reporters were on hand, and so, in front of the building, were Wilkins and some of his chief supporters.
But there were no AFSCME representatives on hand, and a visibly angry Wilkins was reduced to saying that, up until an hour before the press conference, an endorsement of his candidacy by Local 1733 had been locked in but that “bullying” and “intimidation” by Cohen had evidently caused a delay in the union’s plans to announce the endorsement.
Keith Johnson, an employee of the city Sanitation Department and a vice president of Local 1733, categorically denied that an endorsement of Wilkins by AFSCME had ever been scheduled. “The membership will meet on Thursday to consider the matter of whom to endorse, but there has been no vote so far,” Johnson said Tuesday afternoon, noting further that Wilkins had inquired of the union’s plans before his campaign issued any press release and had been told unequivocally there had been no action.
Johnson seemed especially irritated by the implication that Cohen or anyone else had managed to intimidate the local union leadership. “We don’t bully,” he said. “That’s a bad spin for him to say.” He acknowledged having talked to Cohen since the Wilkins news release was made public but said the congressman had not put on any pressure, merely asking what the union intended to do.
Apropos the forthcoming Thursday meeting of the Local 1733 board, Johnson said, “We know Cohen’s actions supporting the union. We’ve been knowing about that for years.” He added that Wilkins had almost certainly reduced his chances of getting an endorsement by the statements he had made.
After the completion of Tuesday morning’s press conference, Danielle Inez, Wilkins’ communications aide and the author of the original press release, contacted members of the media with an email that said, “I'll have text messages regarding the endorsement from our campaign political consultant shortly.”
As of late Tuesday afternoon, though, nothing had been received.
Cohen had been contacted by members of the media Tuesday morning while the n press conference was still pending and said, “We don’t know what’s going to happen.” He said he had always been endorsed by AFSCME, both nationally and locally, and acknowledged that it would be “disappointing” if Local 1733 should make another decision. But he said he would in any case continue to support the union’s objectives.
Original story; Below is the first Flyer report of Monday night, based on a Wilkins press release:
No one doubts that lawyer Ricky Wilkins is running hard for the Democratic nomination in the 9th congressional district — least of all incumbent Steve Cohen, who continues to maintain confidence in winning but has been careful not to claim anything like his usual 4 to 1 edge over primary challengers.
Cohen has a formidable financial advantage over Wilkins, he has a record of performance in Washington and constituent service at home, he knows the track and knows how to run on it, and he has an abundant corps of supporters.
So he is not going to push the panic button if Wilkins demonstrates some strength of his own; Cohen more or less expected that.
Still, a press release circulated Monday night by the Wilkins campaign announcing that Local 1733 of AFSCME intends to hold a press conference on Tuesday morning to announce its endorsement of Wilkins had to come as something of a surprise. After all, as the press release noted, the congressman has been including the union local on his fairly lengthy endorsement list and did so as recently as last week.
Cohen could not be reached for a reaction late Monday night, and presumably a press conference scheduled by the AFSCME local at its Beale St. headquarters Tuesday morning will amplify somewhat on the situation. So far the only word of a possible endorsement of Wilkins has come from the Wilkins campaign itself.