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Union screening: Was she or wasn’t she? Candidate Maureen Reed and SEIU don’t agree

Just what constitutes a formal “screening” takes on some importance in this intra-party struggle to see which candidate will challenge 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Javier Morillo, president of Local 26 of the Service Employees International Union, says that Dr. Maureen Reed’s campaign is “lying” when it says that she did not have a chance to screen with the SEIU.

Reed’s campaign manager, Jason Isaacson, uses just as strong a language in saying that she did NOT screen with the SEIU, which has endorsed state Sen. Tarryl Clark in the 6th Congressional  District race that likely will end in a DFL primary battle between the two women.

The winner will take on U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann  in next November’s election.

Just what constitutes a “screening” takes on some importance in this intra-party struggle because Reed is justifying her decision to go into a primary if she does not win party endorsement in part because she believes many unions jumped on the Clark bandwagon without ever giving Reed a chance to share her views with them.

Morillo is angry that the SEIU, one of the state’s most politically active unions, is being “used” as an excuse by Reed for to go to the primary.

SEIU did screen Reed, Morillo says.

Did not, Reed’s campaign contends.

So who’s right?

You be the judge.

On Sept. 9, Reed appeared before a group of union leaders representing the East Central Area Labor Council. One member of that body was from the SEIU. The screening was held at RJ’s America Grill in St. Cloud.

Morillo says that body represented the SEIU.

The Reed campaign knew there was an SEIU member on the interviewing board, “but that was not an SEIU process,” Isaacson said. “That’s not how they have screened candidates in the governor’s race.”

Counters Morillo in an email, “They can believe whatever they want, but the fact is this: The Reed campaign does not determine SEIU’s process. SEIU members and their elected representatives do. Candidates love our process when they get endorsed, they hate it when they don’t.”

Morillo also said that the union’s process can vary from race to race. In this case, he said it was the combination of Reed’s poor performance (from a union perspective) in St. Cloud on Sept. 9 and Clark’s favorable record with the union that led to the SEIU decision to endorse Clark.

“There was no reason to waste Dr. Reed’s time or ours and we went with who we felt was the better candidate, Sen. Tarryl Clark,” Morillo said in the email.

Isaacson is not buying that explanation.  He believes Reed never had a chance to be heard by the SEIU.

“I simply don’t believe that’s how one of the biggest unions in the state makes its decision,” he said. “Certainly, that’s not how they have handled screenings in the governor’s race.”

It should be noted that virtually all unions – those which have screened Reed and those that haven’t – have rallied behind Clark.

Reed makes it clear that she respects the unions that gave her a chance to be heard but then opted to side with Clark. She also makes it clear that her announcement late Wednesday that she’ll go to the primary does not mean she will not continue to seek DFL endorsement.

Morillo says Reed has every right to go to the primary, but . . .

“They know this is an unpopular decision with many Democrats who want a united front against Michele Bachmann and so they feel they need a scapegoat to explain their unpopular decision.” 

Reed was screened by the SEIU, he says.

Was not, the Reed campaign counters.