FRANKFORT — A key state union leader has asked Gov. Steve Beshear not to pick Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson as his running mate in a 2011 re-election bid.
Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, hand-delivered a letter to the Democratic governor's office Friday that said Abramson "has established a long record of antipathy towards organized labor" in his 20 years as mayor of the state's largest city.
He urged Beshear to pick someone else in coming weeks.
Londrigan said the letter was on behalf of his executive board and affiliates of the state AFL-CIO, which represent about 100,000 union members.
Beshear's press secretary, Jay Blanton, said the governor appreciated the union's letter, "but he considers Jerry Abramson one of the finest mayors in America."
"Gov. Beshear's commitment to and support of organized labor and working families is strong, and that has not changed and will not change," Blanton said.
He said Beshear will decide whether to seek re-election and name a running mate "fairly soon, but not today."
Asked if Beshear met last weekend with Abramson at the governor's family farm in Clark County to discuss when the two would announce their campaign, Blanton responded: "I don't discuss private meetings the governor has." He declined to elaborate.
Chad Carlton, a spokesman for Abramson, noted that the mayor has been endorsed by more labor unions than his opponents in every election.
"He always has worked hard to protect jobs and for the working people," Carlton said. "Just talk to the people at Ford, GE and UPS, where his efforts to save jobs have worked."
Abramson recently told the Herald-Leader that he is focusing on whether to run again for mayor of Louisville. He said he hopes to decide that issue soon.
Under state law, Beshear must name a new running mate before he can start raising money for his re-election campaign.
His current lieutenant governor, Daniel Mongiardo, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2010, a move that effectively prevents him from being Beshear's running mate in 2011.
In his letter, which the labor federation's board approved on Wednesday, Londrigan said unions that have contracts with Louisville Metro government "have long experienced unsatisfactory relations with the Abramson administration."
Craig Willman, president of Louisville Fire Fighters Local 345, said the union's members would be highly concerned if Abramson eventually became governor.
"He's a 'Jerrycrat,' more concerned about himself than working people," Willman said. "He asked us to rescind our 2 percent raise and he's closed a fire house. He wants to create jobs but doesn't want to pay for them."
Tony Harris, head of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77 in Louisville, said he has "mixed feelings" about Abramson becoming lieutenant governor.
"I'd be excited to see him leave as mayor of Louisville but sorry for the state," Harris said.
Londrigan said he understands from news reports and information "gleaned from conversations with various parties" that Beshear is considering Abramson to be his running mate.
The Herald-Leader reported last month that Abramson was under consideration to be Beshear's running mate. Others who have been mentioned include state Auditor Crit Luallen, Education and Workforce Development Secretary Helen Mountjoy of Owensboro and state Rep. Tommy Thompson of Owensboro.
In his letter, Londrigan said Abramson vetoed ordinances passed by the Louisville Metro Council that would have allowed a labor agreement to build a downtown arena and an ordinance that would have set up labor standards on projects receiving incentives from Metro Louisville.
"Both of these ordinances had the strong backing of the Greater Louisville Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions," Londrigan said.
"In consideration of Mayor Abramson's long record of opposing organized labor and the strong opposition from among your supporters in organized labor, we respectfully request that you choose a running mate that has the support and confidence of organized labor — not one that opposes our programs and principles."
Londrigan noted that the AFL-CIO supported Beshear in the 2007 governor's race.
His letter does not say whom the union will support in 2011 or who should be Beshear's running mate.
"We just wanted to go on record to voice our opposition to Abramson," he said.
Louisville businessman Greg Fischer, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in last year's Democratic primary election, told the Herald-Leader earlier in the week that he is considering running for mayor of Louisville next year if Abramson does not.
"The political talk around here is that it's a done deal, that Jerry will run with Beshear but he hasn't told me that yet," Fischer said.