LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) – The key to winning the Nevada Democratic caucuses could hinge on the endorsement of a powerful Silver State union that represents 60,000 people who work in the state’s casinos.
Culinary Workers Union Local 226 is a must stop for the Democratic candidates whenever they come to town, and the presidential hopefuls are aggressively courting this influential organization.
“To win the Nevada caucuses, you have to get the union’s support,” said Jon Ralston, a non-partisan analyst considered the expert on Nevada politics.
Pilar Weiss, spokeswoman for the union, said it has had a total of 24 visits by Democratic candidates this year. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has dropped by six times; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards have each stopped in five times; Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton have each met with the union three times; and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich each visited with the organization once. If you add a visit by Clinton’s husband (former President Bill Clinton), and Obama’s call-in to the union’s radio show then the number increases to 26.
The union is intricately involved in helping organize the caucuses, an important early contest in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Nevada was chosen by the Democratic National Committee as one of four states sanctioned to hold a nominating contest prior to “Super Tuesday.” The caucuses will be held on January 19 and Super Tuesday will take place on February 5.
Weiss said there is no timeframe on making an endorsement but added, “It is not going to happen before Thanksgiving.”
That means the seven Democratic candidates at Thursday’s CNN/Nevada Democratic Party debate will have a prime opportunity to tout their union credentials. Right now, Ralston said the union is not leaning toward any one candidate. He said the organization wants to see if one of the candidates emerges as a frontrunner, and noted it would be “absolutely devastating” if the candidate the union backs loses the nomination.
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston