Tampa lawyer Bill McBride got a substantial boost in his race for the Democratic nomination for governor Saturday by winning the endorsement of the Florida AFL-CIO.
McBride was chosen over former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, Miami state Sen. Daryl Jones and Miami political activist Bob Kunst, all of whom made pitches Saturday to the union's executive committee behind closed doors.
State House Minority Leader Lois Frankel was ill and was the only candidate unable to make the meeting, said Rich Templin, the union's spokesman.
"This is a fantastic endorsement," McBride said. "It will give me an army of supporters."
The committee's recommendation was approved by 80 percent of the about 250 representatives of various AFL-CIO member unions. A candidate must receive two-thirds of the votes to receive an endorsement. If no one had received that amount, no endorsement would have been made.
"I think it will help McBride with name recognition," said Cindy Hall, president of the Florida AFL-CIO. "Hopefully, Bill McBride will go ahead in the polls. It will help him in collecting money."
Nicole Harburger, a Reno spokesman, said after the vote that Reno still expects to win the nomination.
"We will work with rank and file and labor leadership to win," said Harburger, noting that Reno already has received an endorsement from the plumbers union.
Kunst said he told the committee that he did not want the endorsement. He told the labor officials that both they and the Democratic Party had become too passive.
Jones did not return a call seeking comment on the vote.
McBride told the union members before the vote that he would work for education, better jobs and Florida families. He criticized Gov. Jeb Bush for having "a minimalist's agenda" and not delivering on promises.
The endorsement of the 500,000-member union is viewed as an important milestone toward winning the Democratic Party nomination. McBride earlier picked up the support of the 122,000-member state teachers union and the 73,000-member Florida Construction and Building Trades Council.
The AFL-CIO "asked a lot of hard questions, but they were important questions," McBride said before receiving the endorsement.
"These are serious people; they are concerned about the future of Florida."