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October 25, 2014

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AFL-CIO head says organization endorsement up for grabs in Heck-Bilbray race

As the bill languishes in Congress, the Nevada AFL-CIO has made comprehensive immigration reform one of its priority issues, advocating for its passage, pressing Nevada’s Republicans to support it and trying to keep the political momentum behind it from completely floundering.

But would the labor union that almost exclusively backs Democrats throw its support behind a Republican who helped them out on comprehensive immigration reform?

Maybe, said the union’s secretary-treasurer Danny Thompson.

Asked on the public affairs television program To the Point if the AFL-CIO would back Republican incumbent Rep. Joe Heck over Democrat Erin Bilbray based on what Heck does on immigration reform, Thompson left the possibility open.

“Certainly we support the candidates who support our issues; that’s one of our issues, so we would have to look very hard at that,” Thompson said.

Thompson noted that Heck would have to go through the same formal endorsement process with the labor union as other candidates.

If past is prologue, the chances are pretty slim that the Nevada AFL-CIO would endorse Heck. The union endorsed Democrat Dina Titus in 2010 in her failed bid to keep that seat. It also endorsed Democrat John Oceguera in his 2012 attempt to unseat Heck.

To endorse Heck, the union also would have to reverse its almost ceaseless browbeating of Heck on the immigration issue. Beyond simply pressing Heck to support the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill, the AFL-CIO routinely sends out press releases critical of Heck.

“Heck makes excuses on immigration while others make progress,” read a press release sent out Monday. The union had wanted Heck to sign on to the Democrats' immigration bill as Rep. Jeff Denham has done. Denham is the only Republican co-sponsor of the legislation.

“Joe Heck all conversation, no action on immigration reform,” read another sent last week.

Heck has walked a thin line on immigration reform, voting with the Republican majority on a measure that would have defunded President Barack Obama’s administrative action that protects so-called Dreamer immigrants from deportation and saying he would vote against the immigration bill passed by the Senate this year.

But Heck said his vote to defund the deferred action program was not reflective of his views on the Dream Act, which would give legal status to young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

Heck is drafting a bill similar to the Senate’s Dream Act legislation that would address young immigrants without status who complete an apprenticeship or other training program that readies them for full participation in the American economy.

He also has described the pathway to citizenship provisions in the Senate bill as “reasonable”. Last week, Heck lambasted his own party leadership after news broke that the House likely wouldn't bring immigration up for a vote this year.

Thompson said more action by Heck on immigration reform would be “helpful” in the union’s endorsement process.

“I think that would be helpful to him, certainly in our eyes, and if you look at that poll and what his constituents are saying, it would be helpful to him in that regard as well,” Thompson said.

Heck's district is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. A poll released last week showed a majority of voters there favored comprehensive immigration reform.

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