Franken, union president stump for Harry Reid

RENO — The national AFL-CIO president along with comedian and U.S. Sen. Al Franken told about 150 cheering union members Tuesday evening that Democratic Sen. Harry Reid is their champion and needs their support.

“Are we going to let corporate CEOs buy Harry Reid’s seat?” asked AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Harry Reid is our champion. When we needed him, he was there.”

Franken, D-Minn., noted how he narrowly won his seat in 2008 in a recount. More than anyone, Franken said he knows each vote counts, and that Reid’s race against Republican Sharron Angle will be very close.

“I want you at phone banks,” Franken said. “I want you out door-knocking. Many of you have families. Ignore them for the next week. Leave them some food out. This is going to be a close election.”

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday showed Angle leading Reid by four percentage points. All polls in recent weeks have shown their race will be close.

Reid, who spoke for only 10 minutes at the rally, was calm and never raised his voice. After the rally, he said he feels “comfortable” about winning the election.

“I’m not much of a worrier,” he said. “I have always felt this was an election of contrasts.”

As more Nevadans learn about Angle’s positions, he will gain their votes, Reid said.

Reid said Angle wants to go to Washington, D.C., to “stall things. The People of Nevada want action. This woman believes the collapse of Wall Street was caused by too much regulation. She believes the BP oil spill was caused by too much regulation.”

No Angle supporters were visible at the rally at the Washoe County Senior Citizens Center. But state Republican spokesman Jahan Wilcox issued a statement saying that the Reid rally will not sway voters.

“Despite how hard these outside groups work, it will not motivate Reid’s base because his economic policies have failed to help Nevada’s ailing economy,” Wilcox said.

McKay Daniels, state director of the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs, noted in a statement that 200,000 Nevadans are looking for work. He accused Reid of standing for unions, not for small business.

Reid clearly stood for unions at the rally. He talked about growing up poor in Searchlight and how his father was “big and strong” and a member of several unions. Reid said he read a lot about unions and was fond of Woody Guthrie’s pro-union songs.

“Folks, I’m not scared,” said Reid, reciting the lyrics from a Guthrie song. “I’m sticking with the union.”

Reid said his No. 1 responsibility is to help create jobs. He noted that $2 billion in renewable energy projects are under way in Nevada. With NV Energy and other companies agreeing to a transmission line to tie Northern and Southern Nevada together for the first time, he said, Nevada will be “energy independent” in three years.

Franken, a former Saturday Night Live regular, said he was a member of four unions and that all senators respect Reid.

“There is a reason Harry Reid is majority leader, Franken said. “This man’s word is his bond. He is a man of steel. All of us in the Democratic Party value this man. Those on the other side of the aisle do too.”

Franken said President Barack Obama, with Reid’s help, saved America from a depression, an assertion that has been denounced and challenged by Republican officials. Franken argued that even Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain’s economist said the stimulus plan created 3 millions jobs and prevented a depression.

“I personally think preventing a depression is kind of a good thing,” said Franken, who made his serious points while leaving the crowd laughing.

Both Reid and Trumka decried a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to contribute millions of dollars to campaigns without identifying themselves. Reid noted that every dollar unions contribute to his campaign must be reported.

Trumka said for every dollar an unidentified corporation contributes to Angle, union members need to knock on one more door.

“Face-to-face interactions are worth more than millions spent on TV,” he said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.

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