The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council endorsed Councilman David Alvarez for mayor Friday after a lengthy meeting that stretched well into the evening and included a surprise visit from former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña. Saldaña pulled papers to run in the mayoral race earlier Friday.
Alvarez, a councilman from District 8, is known to be pro-labor union. The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council represents more than 135 local labor unions and more than 200,000 local working families.
"We are all in," said Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Richard Barrera. "All in."
Alvarez tweeted his intent to run in the November special election on Thursday morning.
The councilman, who grew up in Barrio Logan, was the first in his family to graduate from high school and college, according to his website. He also graduated with honors from San Diego State University. Alvarez, his wife Xochitl, and their daughter Izel reside in Logan Heights.
The endorsement signals a deep divide between former Labor leader Lorena Gonzalez, currently a state Assemblywoman who is supporting candidate Nathan Fletcher, and the current leadership at the Labor Council.
Fletcher was hoping to gain the advantage of being labor's choice in the Nov. 19 special election with Gonzalez's help. Now, a crowded field of Democrats that includes potential candidates like Saldaña and former city attorney Mike Aguirre could fragment the Democratic voting population and hand the advantage to the only major Republican in the race, Councilman Kevin Faulconer.
The endorsement of the Labor Council and its funding brings an edge to any candidate with sheer numbers.
"The most important asset we bring to any campaign is our people. Our people are going to be out knocking on doors. We're going to have people making phone calls, and people letting their coworkers know that Alvarez is the progressive candidate in this race and the champion for working families that this community needs," Barrera said.
Barrera said support among the trade group for Alvarez was overwhelming.
“[The] vote was a clear and unequivocal show of support from working people for David Alvarez,” said Barrera in a statement released Saturday morning. “Our members took a hard look at all of the candidates and decided that David is the best choice to move San Diego forward, past distraction and scandal at City Hall, and get our city refocused on creating good jobs and delivering the vital services residents need.”
For his part, Fletcher is backed by of the Municipal Employees Association, the San Diego firefighters union, the lifeguards union and he's expected to pick up the San Diego Police Officers Association endorsement. He also has already raised several hundred thousand dollars in campaign money, and he has the help of one of the region's most notable field operators.
In 2010, under prior leadership with Gonzalez, the Labor Council spent $113,000 trying to defeat Alvarez in his bid for City Council against Felipe Hueso, brother of state Senator Ben Hueso.