Labor Battle at Center of Virginia Senate Race

The new Boeing Dreamliner plant in North Charleston, S.C., is a few hundred miles from George Allen’s campaign headquarters in Richmond, but if Allen and the Old Dominion’s GOP have their way, the bitter battle between the airline manufacturer and the National Labor Relations Board will help determine Virginia’s next U.S. senator.

That race, expected to be among the most expensive and competitive of 2012 U.S. Senate contests, most likely will pit Allen, a former Virginia governor and senator, against Tim Kaine, who also served a term as Virginia governor and who most recently chaired the Democratic National Committee. The two are vying for the seat held by Democrat Jim Webb, who chose not to seek re-election after just one term.

Five years ago, George Allen was a popular Republican senator often talked about in conservative circles as a potential presidential candidate. His near-certain path to re-election was compromised when he referred to a 20-year-old Democratic volunteer as “a macaca” at a political rally. The volunteer, then a University of Virginia student who worked for Webb’s campaign, is of Indian ancestry, and the previously unheard-of term was widely perceived as an ethnic slur.

Allen later apologized, but he paid for the gaffe with his Senate seat. (He repented again at a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference last month.) Now he is attempting a comeback based not on personality but on curbing spending, growing jobs and allowing businesses to be more competitive. Specifically the GOP candidate is invoking a specter that’s also been a feature of the presidential contest: Democrats’ close ties to Big Labor.

Allen’s campaign is seeking to capitalize on a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing for opening new manufacturing plants in South Carolina instead of in Washington state, partly to avoid the labor trouble that has prompted recent strikes by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The machinists union sued Boeing, alleging that moving some of its manufacturing operations to a right-to-work state was a form of retaliation prohibited by federal law.

Read More at Real Clear Politics By Caitlin Huey-Burns, Real Clear Politics