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Clark County commission candidates duel for labor endorsements

Updated February 17, 2018 - 12:11 am

A state senator with a record of supporting workers is competing for organized labor endorsements after a union official entered the race for Clark County Commission.

Sen. Tick Segerblom this week touted support from local unions representing builders, electrical workers, painters and water employees after Laborers Local 872 vice president Marco Hernandez announced his candidacy. The Democrats will face off in the June primary for the County Commission’s District E seat.

“I want people to know that just because my opponent is from organized labor that organized labor is not united in who they’re supporting,” said Segerblom, 69. “I actually believe that I’ll get the majority of labor (endorsements).”

But Hernandez, 37, is amassing his own support.

Laborers Local 872’s political action committees donated $40,000 to the first-time candidate’s campaign across November and December. Hernandez said he’s also backed by unions representing local ironworkers, bricklayers, carpenters and teamsters.

“When it comes to the unions, I know what they’re looking for,” he said. “And I understand everything that has to do with both sides of the fence: (company) ownership and the unions.”

District E covers the northern half of the Strip and eastern Las Vegas. Incumbent Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who is running for governor, said she supports Segerblom.

“Factional politics”

Eric Herzik, political science professor for the University of Nevada, Reno, called the brewing primary showdown “bad factional politics” that could hurt Democrats in the general election if a viable Republican enters the race.

“You generally never want this type of internal division from a core base like labor,” he said. “What can easily happen is regardless who wins the primary you don’t have a united front going forward, and the worst case is significant parts of labor sit on their hands and don’t work for a particular candidate.”

Herzik said he’s interested to see which candidate is endorsed by Nevada’s largest union, the political powerhouse Culinary Local 226.

“That one could be totally decisive,” he said.

Culinary spokeswoman Bethany Khan wrote in an email that the union is not endorsing candidates at this time, but “Segerblom has always stood with working families and supported workers in their fight to have good middle-class jobs with strong protections against sexual harassment and gender/racial discrimination.”

Friend turned foe

Segerblom has gathered recognition nationwide as Nevada’s so-called godfather of marijuana, but he’s also known as a proponent for workers.

He sponsored the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights that was signed into law last year and spearheaded a failed attempt in 2015 to raise Nevada’s minimum wage.

“No one has a better labor record in the Legislature than I do,” Segerblom said.

Labor organizations donated tens of thousands of dollars to his 2016 state Senate re-election campaign, including a $2,500 donation and endorsement from Laborers Local 872. Segerblom believes he fell out of favor with the union because he voted against pledging $750 million in public funds for an NFL Stadium in the Las Vegas Valley.

Laborers Local 872 is all in for the project, calling it a job creator for Southern Nevada.

Herzik said the stadium vote has become a “political litmus test.”

“It’s almost like the merits of that vote get lost in ‘you voted against our jobs’ or ‘you voted away to give millions of tax dollars,” he said.

But Laborers Local 872 secretary-treasurer Tommy White said the union has many more reasons to back Hernandez.

“Tick Segerblom’s whole agenda is marijuana. He doesn’t talk about building our communities. He doesn’t talk about cleaning our communities,” White said. “Marco has a vision of what the future should hold for Maryland Parkway. Marco has a vision of what the future should hold for Clark County. Marco has a vision of what the future should hold for his district.”

Hernandez said he wants the County Commission to invest more in eastern Las Vegas, his home since 1988.

“I want to make sure I bring pride to these individuals,” he said.

New alliances

While Hernandez is a Democrat, White said Laborers Local 872 isn’t pledging allegiance to the party.

He listed seven Republican candidates for Nevada Legislature that have the union’s support. Republican attorney Tisha Black also got the nod in her bid for the County Commission’s District F seat.

The union also is supporting incumbent Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, attorney general candidate Wes Duncan and state Sen. Michael Roberson for lieutenant governor. All are Republicans.

That is a sharp increase from 2016, when Laborers Local 872 endorsed five Republican candidates.

White said the union has found common ground with the party on the issue of job creation.

“We’re about putting people to work,” he said.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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