There have been numerous instances in the past of teachers’ unions having uneasy relationships with Democratic governors. But I have never seen the list as long as it is now.
To varying degrees, NEA and AFT affiliates have been at odds with John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Dannel Malloy in Connecticut, Pat Quinn in Illinois and, of course, Andrew Cuomo in New York.
More recent additions are Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii and John Kitzhaber in Oregon.
In an election year, the dilemma for unions is whether or not to endorse a mostly unfriendly Democratic incumbent. Different affiliates are handling it in different ways. For example, the Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers endorsed Quinn, but only because they really despise his Republican opponent. The Hawaii State Teachers Association endorsed Abercrombie’s Democratic primary opponent, state Sen. David Ige, who seems poised to unseat Abercrombie on Saturday. The Oregon Education Association appears to be sitting out the gubernatorial race.
Among the possible strategies for the union, two can lead to positive outcomes. The first is low risk, but probably low reward. Support the incumbent. If he wins, you might be rewarded. You might not be, but at least you will be no worse off than before. The second is high risk, high reward. If Ige wins on Saturday, then goes on to win the general election in November, it is very likely he will be grateful to HSTA and his other supporters. The risk is that you could end up in the wilderness if the challenger loses, as the United Federation of Teachers learned in 2001.
Refusing to participate may be gratifying, and may save some money, but if the incumbent wins, he is not beholden to you. If he loses, it will only be small consolation that you might have been able to affect that result had you joined in.
Keeping the candidate on the reservation after he wins is a different problem, but you have little chance of getting what you want if you never backed him.