Briefings: An Impending Labor Swing for Cocchi?…
UPDATED 1/14/16 10:40AM: To reflect an update in endorsements and to reflect a correction. Candidate James Gill is running as an independent, not, as previously reported, as a Democrat.
With the slow gel of Democratic primary for Hampden County Sheriff is finally starting to firm up, the endorsement game is likely to step up as well. To a certain extent, given the contours of the race, some voices behind certain candidates will be expected. Others are may speak to how strong political allegiances really are or instead defy conventional wisdom.
The Teamsters’ endorsement of Nicholas Cocchi comes early in the cycle. Though Cocchi began his campaign two and a half years before this September’s primary, earlier moves by other players were not necessarily a given. Perhaps just as significantly, the nod suggests labor may shake off some expectations that it would largely back former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano. Albano has not formally joined the race, but is widely expected to do so.
The Springfield-based Teamsters’ local endorsed Cocchi following similar backing from the Carpenters’ Local 108, Tolland Firefighters and the Hampden County Superior Corrections Officers Association, according to a Cocchi press release. Local 404, the Teamster’s division in Western Massachusetts, represents employees in driving positions, including some in construction and law enforcement.
The early endorsement carries some significance in two ways. It signals a consolidation of political heavy hitters behind Cocchi in particular, but also a consolidation of non-Albano forces behind Cocchi as opposed to the other candidate in the primary race Jack Griffin.
No Republicans or have declared for the race. James Gill originally filed with campaign finance officials as a Dem, but has since switched to unenrolled for an independent bid.
With the exception of a few bit players, Cocchi has secured support from the county’s higher-profile political figures, partly a consequence of the less-than-subtle backing of the incumbent, current Sheriff Michael Ashe. Labor, however, may have been expected to align closer with Albano.
Despite his role in Springfield’s financial mess over a decade ago leading to the layoff of many unionized employees, labor has maintained a loyalty to the ex-mayor. Albano’s family has deep ties to Pioneer Valley unions, which may explain part of the fealty.
The endorsement from the Teamsters, with, sources close to Cocchi’s campaign say, more to come from law enforcement and trade unions very soon—the endorsement of the sheriff’s department Law Enforcement Division officers came Wednesday—may mean Albano’s presumptive labor advantage has grown brittle. Moreover, Albano’s thus far only furtive moves toward a sheriff run leave him unable to sew up commitments as easily as Cocchi or the others in the race can.
Less clear, however, is how far this endorsement permeates into membership and thus what that means for Cocchi’s boots on the ground.
In a letter Cocchi’s release quote, Local 404’s president, Frank Rossi praised Cocchi’s “professionalism and dedication to the Hampden Sherriff’s office. “The understanding you have for the Union members and employees that perform day to day operations of the Sheriff’s Department…is clearly a leadership characteristic the department will benefit from immensely,” Rossi continued.
The gut feeling is that Albano’s labor relationships were always tightest with leadership, the people that would have known his relatives active in the labor movement. By contrast, many rank and file workers whose locals have endorsed Cocchi, probably know him quite well. For better or worse, their experience will define how strongly they follow their union leadership’s campaigning for Cocchi.
In the Teamsters’ case, the national labor organization itself is one of the still-strong unions, spread more evenly across the private and public sectors and representing workers in both new and old industries. If that strength is proportional in Local 404, it could prove invaluable either as a conduit for ad and/or direct mail spending or fostering relationships for Cocchi across labor and other left-leaning/progressive organizations in Hampden County.