It’s a compromise solution that would make King Solomon proud. The Flyer
has learned that the executive board of Local 1733 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has reached agreement on the matter of endorsing a candidate in the 9th District congressional primary.
Afer meeting for several hours at AFSCME headquarters on Beale Thursday night, the board agreed that neither Steve Cohen, the Democratic incumbent, nor Ricky Wilkins, his challenger, will be endorsed by the Local during the current primary, which will end next Thursday, August 7.
After August 7, the board will meet again to decide on the matter of endorsing the primary winner, whether Cohen or Wilkins, with the likelihood that the winner will be formally endorsed by Local 1733 at that point. In the meantime, Cohen retains the endorsement and financial support he has already received from AFSCME’s national board.
Reportedly, all members of the seven-member board, including Local 1733 president Janice Chalmers, agreed on this solution.
But there’s still a problem to be resolved. A billboard — one of those with alternating messages — has materialized on Covington Pike bearing the message that Wilkins has been endorsed by president Chalmers.
Chalmers had acknowledged on Wednesday that she had agreed to endorse Wilkins prior to a press conference announced Monday night by the Wilkins campaign and scheduled for Tuesday morning at AFSCME headquarters.
Apparently after hearing from Cohen, however, representatives of the national union contacted Chalmers and, in her words, "caused me to cancel Local 1733's participation in the press conference.”
Wilkins and a group of supporters went ahead with the press conference in the absence of anyone from AFSCME, and Wilkins , who blamed that absence on “bullying" and “intimidation” by Cohen, continued to claim that he had been endorsed by the Local.
That issue seems to have been rendered moot by the board’s Thursday night agreement that there is, for the moment, no endorsement of either candidate by Local 1733, and there won’t be one until the primary is over. Chalmers is said tc have concurred with that decision.
But the billboard is a red flag. At the board meeting, after two members had reported seeing it on Covington Pike, the entire board, including Chalmers, reportedly agreed that the sign was unauthorized and should be removed, inasmuch as it used the union’s name without formal approval.
No one knew who had paid for the sign or arranged for it to be displayed on Covington Pike, and several members discussed the option of bringing charges against whoever was responsible for erecting the sign.
In the meantime, the small yard signs supporting Wilkins that someone had planted in the grounds around the AFSCME building before Tuesday’s abortive press conference will be removed, one board member said.
Plans are to meet with the media on Friday to explain further details.
Meanwhile, additional information will be posted here as it is learned.