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Union doesn’t weigh in on race between Ritchie, Tresidder

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A group representing 24,000 unionized workers in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties has stayed out of the race between Republican state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie and Democrat Amy M. Tresidder.

Neither candidate earned a two-thirds majority of support from delegates of the Central Trades and Labor Council when they met Wednesday in Gouverneur. The union represents AFL-CIO employees. Supporters of Mrs. Tresidder said the non-endorsement was good news for her campaign, even as Republicans privately questioned whether Mrs. Tresidder could mount a serious campaign without the support of unionized workers.

“I think it’s significant that a sitting senator has not been able to gain the support of the working men and women of the north country,” said Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, a supporter of Mrs. Tresidder.

The union endorsed then-Democratic Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine in 2010 over Mrs. Ritchie, but the union does frequently back Republicans.

Ronald P. McDougall, the president of the labor council, said the minimum wage and new pension legislation were major topics of discussion at the four-hour endorsement meeting.

Mrs. Ritchie does not support raising the minimum wage, while Mrs. Tresidder does. And Mrs. Ritchie voted this year to approve sweeping changes to the state pension system, which the unions opposed. Among other things, the changes increased the retirement age from 62 to 63 and offered a 401(k)-style pension option to non-union employees of the state. Mrs. Tresidder said she would not have voted to approve Tier VI because, she said, the startup costs were significant, citing a report from Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Mr. DiNapoli’s office said that setting up the new pension tier would cost between $7 million and $16 million, without any immediate savings. Mr. DiNapoli also opposed changes to the pension system.

The two major issues put Mrs. Tresidder in accord with the union. But the union endorsed two senators who, like Mrs. Ritchie, have opposed a proposed minimum wage increase and also voted for Tier VI — state Sens. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury. Both are unopposed.

A union’s endorsement can bring a certain legitimacy to a campaign, and it also can provide foot soldiers to go door-to-door and work the phones for a candidate. Mrs. Tresidder won’t have that. She has lagged behind Mrs. Ritchie in fundraising and does not appear poised to catch up, given a lack of support from the Democratic Party in Albany.

Asked if she could sustain a grass-roots campaign without the support of a major union, Mrs. Tresidder said, “I’m going to work very hard to make sure.”

Mrs. Ritchie’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the union’s decision.

The union also endorsed:

n Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru, in her primary against Karen M. Bisso and David J. Kimmel and in the general election against Timothy R. Carpenter.

n Mrs. Russell, who is unopposed

n Kevin M. McArdle for Lewis County judge.

n Christine Clark, John M. Silvestri, Joseph M. Sise and Mark W. Blanchfield for state Supreme Court in the district that includes St. Lawrence County.

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