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Anatomy of an endorsement

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
If Rodney Woodill hadn't received a call from his wife Tuesday night, asking him to come home because his two-week old baby was sick, Edwards might have never won the endorsement of New Hampshire Service Employees Association, part of the Service Employees International Union. 

Woodill, who represents 900 county and municipal employees within the state, was on his way to Concord, N.H., to participate in the second Executive Board Meeting within a week to choose a candidate for the state's union to endorse, but turned back home after his wife called. The board voted without him, split 8-8 between Obama and Edwards. Local 1984's president Gary Smith cast the tie-breaking vote, handing the endorsement of 10,000-member union to Edwards.
 
"If I had gone straight to the meeting, there wouldn't have been an endorsement for John Edwards last night," Woodill said in an interview today.
 
The tight vote was indicative of a union leadership that was split between the two candidates and a process fraught with internal politics reflective of a soap opera, as it was a sober consideration of which Democratic nominee would best reflect the union's interests. 
 
Just last week, on Monday, the state's political education committee made a 10-5 decision to recommend Edwards for the union's endorsement. However, Woodill points out that the decision to choose Edwards was partly based on a poll of only 24 union members across the state. The poli-ed committee also considered whether a candidate had spoken at the national convention, participated in SEIU's Walk a Day in My Shoes program, and if they had put forward a substantive proposal for universal health care.

All three candidates had lobbied intensively for the committee's vote, which included a phone call from former President Clinton to the members of the board right before they took a vote. The phone call from Clinton had followed a personal appearance by Obama, who had been filing for the presidency in New Hampshire that day, and a last-minute phone call from Edwards, who had also previously met with the board.
 
When the poli-education committee passed on their recommendation to Board of Directors the next evening, however, Obama had actually walked away with the nomination. The members of the board had voted 7-5 to endorse Obama, but through a quirk in the process, none of the board members present chose to make a formal motion to give the nomination to him.
 
Instead, they adjourned, though SEIU's president Gary Smith said he would call the Obama campaign to tell them they had won the endorsement last Tuesday night. But Obama was going to be out of luck.
 
When the board met again on Friday night, the chair of the executive board proposed holding another endorsement vote, which Woodrill attempted to override.  He says that holding another vote was in violation of one of the union's rules: "Roger's Rule 36," which says that all votes the board takes are binding.  
 
Instead, the assembled board members disregarded the earlier vote for Obama and went ahead with a motion to make a decision on who the union should endorse after they had taken a straw poll at the state convention in Nashua, N.H., over the weekend.
 
Ironically, at the convention, a majority of the members present chose not to endorse any candidate. Edwards won the straw poll 23-19 over Obama. However, 50 members voted not to endorse any candidate, either Republican or Democrat.
 
When the board met last night, Woodill's dissenting voice was not present, and Edwards squeaked to a victory.
 
Woodill says both he and the state and county employees that he represents have been angered by the process and are questioning why they should have to vote for a candidate that the union is endorsing when the process has been so convoluted.
 
Calling himself a union man through and through, Woodill says that the union at-large will "find itself eating crow," because the candidate they don't want, Hillary Clinton, will end up becoming the Democratic nominee.
 
While New Hampshire's SEA is known to be politically effective, who the state's union endorses, or chooses not to endorse, impacts whether other state SEIU chapters can send workers and resources into New Hampshire to campaign for rival candidates. Under current rules, only states that have also endorsed Edwards can now send volunteers and resources into New Hampshire.  
 
Edwards has received 12 SEIU endorsements after the international union under President Andy Stern decided not to endorse a candidate in the primaries.  Obama has received the endorsements of five state chapters. Clinton has yet to receive one.