The 2013 races that conclude on Tuesday are considered off-year elections, but not for unions -- filtering unprecedented sums of money into gubernatorial, mayoral and school board races across the country.
The Virginia gubernatorial race is the best known -- attracting the most union and outside money in this year’s races and smashing nearly every Virginia record for gubernatorial fundraising, overwhelmingly in support of Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe.
Some of the heaviest hitters this year are also some of the country’s most powerful unions, which are trying to bolster dwindling membership rolls as they try to influence the race outcomes.
Unions have spent at least $2 million on the Virginia race, including $343,000 alone in cash and in-kind donations from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.
And earlier this fall, the AFL-CIO made clear it was going to devote resources to upcoming Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin gubernatorial races -- particularly the likely re-election bid next year by GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who stripped public unions of the collective-bargaining power, then withstood their recall attempt.
However, unions are also reaching deep into other state and local races, from the Boston mayoral contest to a school board election in suburban Denver.
In Boston, unions and out-of-state PACS are also pouring money into the Boston race in record-breaking sums.
The overwhelming amount has gone to Democratic candidate and state Rep. Marty Walsh, who is slightly ahead of City Council member John Connolly after trailing for much of the race.
A Suffolk University-Boston Herald poll released Monday shows Walsh leading by 3 percentage points, making the race essentially a dead heat.
Suffolk pollster David Paleologos said Walsh, who like Connelly is white, has at least indirectly benefited from the union money by winning key minority endorsements across nine wards, then using the resources on radio and TV ads touting that support.
“He’s decided to use the union money to really make the point that a vote for them is vote for him,” Paleologos told FoxNews.con on Monday. “He’s wisely allocated the resources because otherwise he would have had to do [more] direct mailing and standing at polls all day.”
Super PACs and labor unions have poured $2 million into the Boston race, with Walsh getting the lion’s share of $1.65 million, according to Commonwealth Magazine.
A conservative-backed effort to reform the Douglass County school system started about four years ago when the board ended teacher tenure and collective bargaining. Then members started instituting a more free-market approach to education that included higher pay for those who teach critical subjects like math and science and a voucher program that made schools compete for money and students.
Teachers and others trying to reverse the trend are backing four candidates for seven open seats who have benefited from independent expenditures of at least $150,000 from the American Federation of Teachers and its Colorado affiliate, plus $70,000 from a committee that has not identified its donors.
The reform candidates have gotten help from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity and wealthy conservative businessmen Charles and Dave Koch, according to Politico.