COLUMBUS — A new Ohio construction labor organization that has raised eyebrows with its financial support of Republican Gov. John Kasich announced its first endorsement in a statewide race Thursday, slapping down the incumbent Republican state treasurer.
“Our board has determined that any candidate that supports so-called ‘right-to-work’ initiatives in Ohio puts our members’ livelihoods at risk,” said Matt Szollosi, the Democratic former state representative from Oregon who is now executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio.
“The candidates’ respective positions regarding right-to-work adoption in Ohio was the determining factor for us,” he said. “[Democrat Connie Pillich] is with us on this, and [Republican Josh] Mandel is not.”
The endorsement raises the question of where ACT Ohio, representing organizations with some 90,000 members, will come down on other statewide races, particularly the one between Mr. Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald. ACT Ohio has not endorsed in that race but has maxed out its financial support to Mr. Kasich.
Since voters rejected a law he signed to restrict the collective bargaining of public employees, Mr. Kasich has resisted efforts to make Ohio the latest right-to-work state. Democrats, however, argue such a move would be inevitable if Mr. Kasich is re-elected.
In the meantime, Mr. Kasich has promoted initiatives to fund new construction projects across the state.
Ohio law prevents someone from being forced to join a union, but proposals would etch that into the Ohio Constitution along with a prohibition against mandatory “fair-share” fees in lieu of dues from those who don’t join.
“Together we have fought against right-to-work laws throughout my career in public service, and as Ohio treasurer I will continue to fight efforts that attack Ohio's working families' ability to earn a fair living,” said Ms. Pillich, a suburban Cincinnati state representative.
Mandel campaign spokesman Rebecca Wasserstein said the treasurer is proud to have the support of other skilled trades men and women.
“One of the main reasons he will be re-elected this fall is because so many of these Ohioans will be putting signs in their front yard, volunteering, and voting for him,” she said.
The conservative Mr. Mandel has taken a hit in headlines from the trial of North Canton businessman Benjamin Suarez. Suarez was accused of laundering illegal contributions to Mr. Mandel’s 2012 Senate campaign in hopes of getting help with a California legal problem. Suarez was acquitted of the campaign finance charges but convicted of witness tampering.
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