The Vermont State Employees Association, a union of about 6,400 state workers, endorsed Democratic attorney general candidate TJ Donovan Thursday in a strongly worded show of support.
In a statement released by the Donovan campaign, VSEA president John Resse said, “For too long Vermonters have gone without an Attorney General who understands what working and middle class Vermonters go through day in and day out, and who appreciates the essential role state workers play in our state.”
The slight against Bill Sorrell, the 15-year incumbent, didn’t come as a surprise to Sorrell, who said he didn’t expect an endorsement from the union.
“TJ approached them,” he said. “They were in touch with me to ask me if I wanted to meet with them, but they didn’t endorse me two years ago either, so I didn’t expect their endorsement.”
As he suggested in answering questions about the Vermont Troopers Association and Vermont Sheriffs Association endorsements of his opponent, Sorrell pointed to his work in the AG’s office as a possible reason the group shied away.
“The attorney general defends the employee grievances that get filed, so we find ourselves litigating against the VSEA very frequently,” Sorrell said in an interview.
Donovan said the fact that he is a “middle class guy” helped him gain the support of the union. Other unions have endorsed Donovan as well. On June 6, the campaign announced they’d received the support of the Vermont State Labor Council and the AFL-CIO.
Eric Davis, a retired professor of political science at Middlebury, said support from big organizations can help boost a candidate if enough of the organizations’ members get to the polls. Davis predicts August’s Democratic primary to bring out about 40,000 voters, which means 20,000 votes would likely win the race.
“I would say the VSEA is one of the most important unions with it comes to endorsements in the primary. The other two are the NEA and the AFL-CIO,” Davis said.
Today’s announcement gives Donovan a boost, especially if the VSEA mobilizes its members in support of Donovan in August.
“If they can get, as a result, you know 2,000 of their people to the polls to vote for Donovan, that gets him 10 percent of the votes he would need to win the primary,” Davis said.