Alright, I’m going to begin a series of posts on the winners and losers emerging from Tuesday’s election. It’s not going to be the obvious stuff. I mean, of course the winning candidates were winners and the ones they beat were not.

This is more forward-looking — what interests have positioned themselves better. Which politicians now have more power even though they may not have been in a campaign?

This isn’t going to be in any particular order as I’m hoping you’ll participate and let me know of some I might be missing. So if I tried to rank them, I’d hate to have you mess up my rankings.

But to begin, clearly one of the biggest local winners in the 2008 election is the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. Hands down, they almost ran the table.

After the June primary election, I spoke on a panel next to Lorena Gonzalez the secretary-treasurer of the Labor Council.

She is political to the bone. The Labor Council’s governing board put her in charge with an obvious political agenda. And she hired our own former reporter, Evan McLaughlin, to execute it. This year was her and her team’s first big test.

The panel’s moderator wanted us to test our political acumen and predict if Barack Obama would win the presidential election. I hedged, saying he had a good chance. Gonzalez said no, that union members, for one, would have trouble supporting him.

She was obviously wrong. So she missed one point. But I think we can say after this week that her acumen is pretty strong.

The union of union’s political operatives, directed by Gonzalez, focused heavily on the hotly contested 78th Assembly District. They won. They worked hard grooming and helping Marti Emerald in the 7th District City Council race. They won. They did the same for Sherri Lightner in District 1. They won. They made the risky decision to take a side in the race between Todd Gloria and Stephen Whitburn in District 3. Both are solid labor-friendly Democrats. The Labor Council chose Gloria. He won.

Unions and the Labor Council came out in force for the Chula Vista City Council candidates they preferred. The South Bay city is quickly becoming the most interesting story in the county. Steve Castaneda was one of the Democrats to get the unions’ support. He won. Pamela Bensoussan, the other, is still waiting on a final tally from the race. Her opponent is currently up in the count by 119 votes. So probably unlikely there.

Yes, the unions lost something Tuesday — though stay tuned.

Tuesday’s election was a defining and dramatic win for Gonzalez and McLaughlin, along with all their staffs and allies: people like the leaders of the hotel employees union who have gone from newcomers to the San Diego political scene in 2004 to true power brokers.

Let’s go ahead and throw the teachers union into this account as well. It is not part of the Labor Council, but it was a winner nonetheless. The union orchestrated a shocking ouster of incumbent School Board Member Mitz Lee and, combined with the election of its ally Richard Barrera, the union now has an influence over that body unseen in years.

Finally, the city of San Diego’s municipal employees unions got just about everything they could have wanted as well.

So labor won on the biggest stages in town. Congratulations. Now comes the hard part. Budget numbers don’t come in one language for business-friendly Republicans and another for labor-friendly Democrats. The city of San Diego, Chula Vista and the school district are going to get hammered in a language everyone understands when we finish calculating the extent of the financial and revenue crises that have arisen.

The newly minted Democratic policy makers might be more willing to raise the property and sales taxes these government agencies depend on to cover the bills they have to pay. But property taxes depend on property values. And sales taxes depend on, well, the rate of sales of goods and services. Both of these aspects of our economy are collapsing with no end in sight.

Labor union leaders wanted to influence as much as possible while our public servants grapple with this. We’ll see what that influence means.


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