More unions endorse mayor

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced endorsements for his gubernatorial bid from four major unions Wednesday afternoon, including the unions that represent Yale’s workers and District 1199/SEIU, the largest union of health care workers in the state.

Together, the four unions represent 30,000 workers and bring the total number of unions backing DeStefano to 25, collectively representing more than 85,000 workers. In addition to District 1199/SEIU, DeStefano was endorsed by SEIU Local 32BJ and UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35, which represent clerical and maintenance workers at Yale.

“There’s nothing more important to the future of the state than work,” DeStefano said. “There’s nothing more important than work that pays, that pays a fair wage so Connecticut can be the best.”

SEIU 1199 spokesman Bill Meyerson said his union supports DeStefano because of his track record of working closely with New Haven’s unions and of advocating for social justice within the city. Meyerson said the state’s SEIU locals held a discussion forum this fall with DeStefano and his opponent in the Democratic primary race, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy. Several hundred SEIU members attended the forum, he said, and the consensus afterwards was that DeStefano had a more active record of supporting the needs of workers.

“Unlike any other candidate that’s running, he has a proven track record of fighting for the interest of working families in general and the interest of health care workers,” Meyerson said. “He fought to get adequate state funding for nursing homes in this city that were being closed because it wasn’t profitable to operate a nursing home for inner city people. And he has stood very forthrightly for the ability of workers to choose to unionize fairly.”

Malloy campaign spokesman Chris Cooney said the SEIU local union in Stamford had endorsed Malloy in his mayoral campaign there, but decided to endorse DeStefano for governor because of the group’s interest in unionization at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Malloy has been endorsed by four state unions, representing more than 7,000 workers, Cooney said.

“They’ve been a long time supporter of Dan, but they’re trying to organize in New Haven,” he said.

Cooney also pointed out that four other SEIU locals in the state have not decided to support DeStefano.

The announcement of the new endorsements comes a day after DeStefano’s campaign released fundraising figures for the last quarter that showed his campaign’s earnings for this quarter lagging behind those of Malloy. DeStefano’s campaign raised $251,063 this quarter from 935 contributors, while Malloy raised $477,034 from 488 contributors.

Incumbent Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who began fund-raising only this quarter for her gubernatorial bid, has raised more than $890,000 from nearly 2,000 donors. According to a poll conducted last month by Rasmussen Reports, she has an 81 percent job approval rating among Connecticut voters, and leaders both Democrats by over 40 points.

Shonu Gandhi ’03, DeStefano’s campaign director, said DeStefano has raised $2.84 million in total, more than any other Democrat has ever raised in a campaign for governor in Connecticut. Malloy’s campaign has raised $2.2 million since it began fund-raising.

“We focused this quarter on building a strong statewide network that is vital to winning,” Gandhi said. “We increased the amount of donors in Hartford and Fairfield counties, and we aggressively courted smaller donors.”

Gandhi said the DeStefano campaign has $1,878,491 in cash on hand, while Malloy’s has $1,235,196.

But Cooney said Malloy’s campaign began fund-raising eight months after DeStefano’s, and since then has been racing to build statewide name-recognition while raising funds.

“We had our third consecutive quarter of really solid growth,” he said. “Less than half of our contributions came from Fairfield County, which is our traditional base of support. There’s a broad base of support for Dan Malloy.”

The gubernatorial election will be held in November.

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