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Freeman and Bradford spar over SEIU endorsement

Last night, Noel Freeman sent out this press release:

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 confirmed Tuesday during a screening interview with City Council At-Large Position 4 candidate Noel Freeman that his opponent, C.O. Bradford, has falsely claimed to have received its endorsement.

Bradford issued a press release on August 17, 2009 announcing he had received SEIU’s endorsement. According to SEIU officials, Bradford had been asked to remove the endorsement from his campaign website more than a week ago, but as of 11:00 pm on September 1st, the endorsement still appeared on the website.

“I find it disappointing my opponent would attempt to mislead voters by claiming an endorsement he does not have.” Freeman said. “My opponent’s claim that he received SEIU’s endorsement more than two weeks before they even finished screening candidates in this race does a tremendous disservice to the proud men and women of SEIU who take the political process seriously.”

This morning, C.O. Bradford responded with a press release of his own:

“C.O. “Brad” Bradford does have Labor’s endorsement. Noel Freeman’s claim that C. O. Bradford is falsely claiming that he had received the endorsement of the SEIU, Local 1 is not truthful. I am the person that told C. O. Bradford that he had the endorsement of the Harris County AFL-CIO Council and of all of the Unions affiliated with it – including SEIU, Local 1. It is possible that SEIU, Local 1, is reserving their endorsement and they have every right to do so. I gave C. O. Bradford the wrong information. Noel is off base on this one and is stirring up trouble to get attention. The Unions of the Harris County AFL-CIO Council did endorse C. O. Bradford. If one or two of the 77 Unions choose to do otherwise, this is still an endorsement of the whole (thousands and thousands of members who will be informed of the endorsement) of the Labor movement for a very good candidate who will represent Houstonians very well on City Council. Noel Freeman does not have our endorsement,” stated Mr. Richard Shaw, Harris County AFL-CIO Council.

“I am honored to have received the endorsement of the Labor Unions in Harris County. I am committed to helping the thousands of workers who are striving for better conditions, benefits, safety equipment, and training for the greater good of all in our community,” stated Bradford.

Both Freeman and Bradford suggested that I speak to Tiffany Hogue with the SEIU, Local 1 organization. So I did, and this is what she told me:

– Generally speaking, all of the local unions participate in the AFL-CIO screening process, with the AFL-CIO acting as an umbrella organization for this purpose. Each union has the right to conduct its own screenings and make its own recommendations, but most of them follow the AFL-CIO’s lead. This is basically what Shaw said.

– SEIU, Local 1, and HOPE, which is affiliated with AFSCME, is in the process of conducting its own screenings and making its own endorsements for all city races. They have already issued an endorsement of Annise Parker for Mayor, but have not yet completed the screening process for other races. They anticipate doing so and announcing their endorsements in the coming weeks. I specifically asked if this meant that they could endorse Freeman, and she said yes, that could happen.

What that says to me is that Freeman’s claim that Bradford did not have the SEIU endorsement is truthful. On the other hand, Bradford certainly had reason to believe he had the SEIU endorsement once he had won the AFL-CIO Council nod, based on the usual way these things go and on what Shaw told him. I don’t think either of these points is seriously in dispute.

Where it gets dicey is the claim that Bradford had been told to remove SEIU’s name from his endorsement list. Bradford denied being asked by anyone to do this. Freeman says he had several conversations with Hogue about this, that she told him she had asked Bradford to take SEIU’s name off his list, and that when he asked her at his screening interview to confirm that someone had asked him to take it down, she said Yes. Hogue agrees she told Freeman that she had heard that someone had asked Bradford to do this, but she told me she didn’t know who that was, and she couldn’t say for certain that it had happened at all. Freeman, in a followup email, gave specific dates and times for the conversations in which he said he asked about this.

So that’s where it stands. I’m somewhat at a loss for what to make of it. It’s clear there was miscommunication, but it’s not clear where it all comes from. This is hard for me, because obviously I wasn’t party to any of the original conversations, and because I like everyone involved. I don’t know what actually happened, but this is what I’ve been told about it. I don’t know how much this clears things up, but it’s what I know. If I hear more, I’ll update this post.

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  1. […] note that they did not mention the At Large #4 race, for which the endorsement status has been the subject of controversy. I sent an inquiry in about this and received a reply that indeed, no endorsement was made. Seems a […]