Education union endorses Whitmer for governor

Editor's note: Vanguard President and CEO TJ Bucholz comments on the Michigan Education Association's endorsement of Gretchen Whitmer for governor.

Michigan Education Association officials on Monday endorsed Gretchen Whitmer for governor, urging roughly 140,000 public school teachers, staff and other member educators to rally behind her campaign for the Democratic nomination.

The group is the largest union so far to back Whitmer, an East Lansing Democrat who has secured support from several labor groups but not yet won the backing of the influential United Auto Workers and the Service Employees International unions.

The MEA endorsement was not a surprise but is a “big win” for Whitmer, said Democratic strategist TJ Bucholz, who formerly consulted with Thanedar’s campaign. There has been some “trepidation” by larger unions to back Whitmer or any of the other declared candidates, but the MEA support could discourage other Democrats who may be considering a late run, he said.

“One of the parts of their calculus has to be currying favor with the unions that have not committed,” Bucholz said. “I think the MEA endorsement today has certainly closed that window a bit.”

UAW support could be especially critical for the Democratic nomination, Bucholz added, predicting most major unions will likely back a candidate in the first quarter of 2018.

“While there’s been some primary jockeying a little bit here, no one in any labor union in Michigan wants a Schuette gubernatorial run to work,” he said, referencing Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, an early favorite for the GOP nomination. “So I think eventually they’ll either be in, likely with Whitmer, or they’ll sit out.”

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