Nation: SEIU Targets 7 Races, Promoting Health Care

Posted July 29, 2008 at 6:49pm

The Service Employees International Union on Tuesday unveiled a plan to target five House seats and two Senate seats in an effort to deliver a larger majority to Congressional Democrats and increase the odds of influencing a change in national health care policy.

“It’s not enough to win on November 4th,” SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said in a statement released by the union. “We must win affordable health care that every man, woman and child in this country can count on. And for that, we need to send people to Washington who are committed to getting it done.”

Republicans predicted that the SEIU’s effort would fall short, in large part because voters would reject a group that supports tax increases and favors eliminating the secret ballot for contests where workers are voting whether to unionize.

“Considering the SEIU’s track record, including opposing the right to a secret ballot, advocating for tax increases and supporting numerous policies that hurt the economy, this partisan campaign won’t carry much weight with the voters,” said Julie Shutley, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The five House seats being targeted by the SEIU include four where the Republican incumbent is running for re-election, and one GOP-held open seat. The Republican incumbents the SEIU is hoping to oust are Rep. Sam Graves in Missouri’s 6th district, Rep. Joe Knollenberg in Michigan’s 9th district, Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st district, and Rep. Thelma Drake in Virginia’s 2nd district.

The union is also targeting the competitive open seat of retiring Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.).

The two Senate seats include the open Colorado seat, where Rep. Mark Udall (D) is running against former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R); and New Hampshire, where Sen. John Sununu (R) is running for re-election against former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D), whom he defeated in 2002.

The SEIU’s campaign to elect Democrats in these two Senate and five House seats includes an “aggressive” get-out-the-vote effort and a paid and earned media component.

Sara Howard, a spokeswoman for the SEIU, declined to specify exactly how much the union plans to spend on this particular campaign. But she did offer that the SEIU would spend “several million dollars” on the campaign, noting that the budget for this effort would come out of the $75 million the union plans to spend overall on political activity in this election cycle.

Cornyn Donates $250K to Boost NRSC

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) informed his Senate GOP colleagues Tuesday that he plans to donate $250,000 out of his re-election account to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Cornyn, who has been rumored to be interested in succeeding Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) as NRSC chairman, is delivering to the committee one of the larger single donations it has received this cycle from a Republican Senator. Cornyn is running for a second term against state Rep. Rick Noriega (D).

“Sen. Cornyn is focused firmly on his own re-election race,” said his spokesman, Brian Walsh. “But he is also committed to supporting the good work of Sen. Ensign and the NRSC as Republicans work to retake the majority in the Senate.”

Cornyn made the announcement this afternoon at NRSC headquarters, where the Senate Republican Conference was holding its weekly policy luncheon. Cornyn reported $9.4 million in cash on hand in his campaign account as of June 30; Noriega reported $916,000.

The Democrats currently hold a majority in the Senate with 51 seats.

But with the GOP defending 23 seats this cycle, to just 12 for the Democrats — including several Republican-held seats in competitive states — the Democrats are expected to make gains in the Nov. 4 elections.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reported $46.3 million on hand as of June 30, compared with just $24.6 million for the NRSC.