Brown, Labor Unions Stand Behind McBride

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Saunders, Times-Union staff writer

With new polls showing him in a virtual dead heat with Janet Reno, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride yesterday bolstered his support with Jacksonville labor leaders and picked up the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.

McBride, who trailed Reno by as many as 28 percentage points in June, hopes a final statewide campaign blitz before Tuesday's primary will help him beat the former U.S. attorney general.

With the backing of the AFL-CIO and the state's teachers union, McBride is counting heavily on organized labor to turn out supporters for the primary. He also hopes Brown, who has traditionally received labor support, will boost turnout among working-class and African-American voters.

Eddie Dedmon, president of the AFL-CIO's North Florida Central Labor Council, said unions are using phone banks to contact their members and are sending out absentee-ballot requests.

"If our members are not enthusiastic about it, that's our [labor leaders'] fault," Dedmon said.

Brown, whose endorsement was somewhat unusual because it came before the primary, said she struggled with the decision about whether to back McBride over Reno and state Sen. Daryl Jones, D-Miami. But she said she thinks McBride can "bring a lot of segments together" to beat Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, in the general election.

"I think McBride is the only candidate that can beat Bush in November," she said.

McBride visited the Ironworkers Local 597 union hall on Jacksonville's Northside as the first stop in the final week of campaigning before the primary. Reno, who has been the front runner throughout the campaign, also will criss-cross the state during the next week and is scheduled to visit Jacksonville Friday.

Reno picked up an endorsement yesterday from Rhea Chiles, widow of former Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles.

New polls released this weekend showed Reno slightly ahead of McBride, though the leads were within the statistical margin of error -- meaning the race is a virtual dead heat. In one of the polls, Reno had the support of 40 percent of those surveyed, while McBride had 38 percent and Jones had 9 percent. …