Carlisle's council campaign boosted by last-minute donations from labor unions

November 4, 2011 

A last-minute surge of cash from labor unions to Merced City Councilman John Carlisle is ensuring a battle to the end in his campaign for re-election.

Three filings made since the Oct. 22 deadline show nearly $5,000 in contributions from three labor unions. Most of that money has been committed to a flurry of advertising that will appear in the Sun-Star, Merced County Times and on Comcast cable stations before Tuesday's election, Carlisle said.

Late donations included $2,100 from Operating Engineers Local No. 2, $1,600 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and $1,000 from the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council.

That brings the total contributions to Carlisle's campaign to $12,424, nearly equal to the amount raised by a group of area businessmen opposing his campaign. Workers Opposing John Carlisle for Council 2011 has about $12,000 in its coffers, including recent donations of $1,000 each from the group's main organizers, James Abbate and Richard Kirby, according to the Merced City Clerk's office.

"(The unions) obviously were spurred on by Abbate and friends. They just thought it was inappropriate. From what I've heard, they increased the amount of their contributions after seeing all the negative stuff," Carlisle said.

Carlisle has had some criticism about the influence of unions on his campaign, but he said he makes no apologies for appealing to "working-class" Merced residents.

"They think of me as being generally more union friendly, or at least willing to look at issues that affect them. On the other side, you have people who are rabidly anti-union because it affects their wallets," Carlisle said. "There's a place in Merced for union workers and there's a place here for nonunion workers, but the part I think is significant is these are real live workers, as opposed to Abbate's made-up group."

Online editor Brandon Bowers can be reached at (209) 385-2464 or bbowers @mercedsunstar.com.

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