Senate President Tom Lee, who's in a contested Republican primary for chief financial officer, won the endorsement Thursday of the state's second largest public employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
AFSCME Florida President Jeannette Wynn delivered the endorsement at a press event outside the union's Tallahassee headquarters. "We had a good relationship when he was Senate President. He ran a fair process," said union spokesman Doug Martin, who praised Lee for his attention to the Florida Retirement System.
He said the union will send Lee a contribution and will send mailings to its 110,000 Florida members in 90 locals, urging those who are Republicans (a minority, to be sure) to vote for Lee on Sept. 5 instead of his GOP rival, Rep. Randy Johnson, R-Celebration.
Johnson said AFSCME's support of Lee "is positive proof that Tom Lee supports big government. As a conservative, I believe in smaller, less government."
Candidates want all the support they can get, but Lee's support from a left-leaning union will require some explaining on the campaign trail. The CFO race will be decided in part by all those Republican clubs where the members see AFSCME as an arm of the Democratic Party. This also has to be the first time in Florida's history that Gov. Jeb Bush, who supports Lee, is on the same side as the union that has spent eight years bashing him on privatization and other policies.
Now comes the real shocker. AFSCME says Lee will keep the union's support if he's the GOP nominee against Democrat Alex Sink in November. Union spokesman Martin said Sink skipped AFSCME's endorsement convention, adding: "We do not have a relationship with her, like we have with Tom Lee. We're endorsing him all the way."