Machinists back Clinton, Huckabee

WASHINGTON The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers on Thursday endorsed Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Mike Huckabee in the presidential primaries, while John Edwards picked up the backing of the carpenters' union.

Edwards' courting of labor finally paid off with his first national union endorsement from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. The union has 530,000 members, one-third who say they are registered Republicans, and was friendly with President Bush although it stayed out of the 2004 race.

Carpenters President Douglas McCarron said in a statement that the union believes the former North Carolina senator will have broad appeal in the general election and that his strong stand on trade and his active work on picket lines "made him the obvious, and to our leadership, only choice in this election."

Asked why Clinton didn't get the union's support, spokesman Monte Byers said: "We don't have anything against Senator Clinton, but we are concerned that she's surrounded by the same economic advisers who created NAFTA," the North American Free Trade Agreement opposed by labor.

Clinton's endorsement from the Machinists was her second major union backing this week. She secured the endorsement of the 125,000-member United Transportation Union on Tuesday. Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd earned a major boost to his candidacy, winning the backing of the 281,000-member International Association of Fire Fighters.

The Machinists union has 700,000 members and estimates a third of the membership votes Republican. It is the first time the union has done a dual endorsement. It chose to do so this year to encourage all members to participate in the election.

Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, beat out Edwards and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich for the endorsement. The union only considered candidates who appeared before members during its conference this week at the Walt Disney World Resort.

"Hillary Clinton earned the IAM's endorsement by focusing on jobs, health care, education and trade the bread and butter issues of the American middle class," union President Tom Buffenbarger said in a news release. "She is the only candidate of either party to come forward with a comprehensive manufacturing policy."

Clinton said in a statement she was honored to received the union's endorsement.

"It is time for America's working families to again share in our nation's prosperity," Clinton said. "They will not be invisible to my administration."

Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, was the lone Republican to address the conference.

"Mike Huckabee was the only Republican candidate with the guts to meet with our members and the only one willing to figure out where and how we might work together," said Buffenbarger. "He is entitled to serious consideration from our members voting in the upcoming Republican primaries."

Byers said the union was planning to kick off its support with a membership rally in New Hampshire on Sept. 8. He said the union has not made an endorsement in a presidential primary for many years.

The carpenters' union is one of the top 100 overall political donors nationwide, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It has given more than $17.5 million to federal candidates since 1989, with 93 percent going to Democrats and has more than 46,000 members in six states that are likely to hold early voting.

Edwards said in a statement: "If we're going to grow the middle class and ensure fairness, we need to strengthen workers' rights."

Associated Press Writer Brendan Farrington in Florida and AP Labor Writer Jesse Holland contributed to this report.