Barnes nabs UAW, AFSCME endorsements for Democratic Party chair

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Lavora Barnes

Lavora Barnes secured the endorsement of two influential unions Friday in her bid for Michigan Democratic Party chair.

The green light from the United Auto Workers union and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are big wins for the state party's chief operating officer, who entered the race as a favorite to replace Chairman Brandon Dillon. Dillon’s replacement will be selected at the party’s Feb. 2 state convention.

“We believe Lavora has the ability to unify the Democratic Party while providing strong leadership and building on the success of the 2018 election,” said Gary Jones, UAW International president.

In a Friday statement, Jones said the endorsement by UAW officers and Michigan's regional directors was based in part on Barnes’ diverse background in public relations, media and politics. She served as the Michigan state director for Obama for America in 2012 and worked in the White House office of media affairs during the Clinton administration.

“Lavora has the ability to hit the ground running through her experience at MDP and as a veteran political strategist,” Jones said.

Barnes' record of "getting positive results for Michigan's working families" and her work on Democrats' 2018 campaign led to AFSCME's unanimous recommendation, according to a statement from the group. 

"Lavora will put Michigan’s working families first, and there is nobody better prepared than her to take on this challenge," said AFSCME Council 25 President Lawrence Roehrig.

One of Barnes’ opponents, Greg Bowens, said the endorsement was ironic given his experiences both on strike and leading the fight to end the strike with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2011. The Grosse Pointe Park Democrat argues delegates will remember as much on Feb. 2.

“The race for chair and the vote for chair comes down to the individual members going to the booth and pushing that button, and I think they will go to the booth and push that button for someone who has been on strike and is a vocal advocate for unions,” Bowens said Friday.  

Other Democratic Party chair candidates include former state Rep. Nancy Quarles, chemist and political organizer Lisa DiRado, former Army officer turned mental health consultant Patrick Biange, Rochell Kirby of Lathrup Village and MD Alam of Detroit. 

Gary Jones, new UAW president, gives his first speech on the final day of the convention at Cobo Center.

There also was an endorsement Friday in the GOP race to replace Michigan Republican Party chairman Ron Weiser.

Former Michigan Attorney Generall Bill Schuette of Midland endorsed former state Rep. Laura Cox, a Wayne County commissioner who is the favorite to take over as chair. She is opposed by Gina Barr, a GOP field organizer in Detroit and Wayne County and head of the Republican National Committee’s Urban Engagement and Women’s Engagement 

"Laura Cox is a proven leader who will grow our party and put us in the best position to win in 2020, from the presidency to the state House," Schuette said in a statement.

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