JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tampa lawyer Bill McBride won the endorsement from the Florida AFL-CIO on Saturday in a major show of labor support in the race for the Democratic nomination to unseat Gov. Jeb Bush.
McBride was chosen over former Attorney General Janet Reno, Miami state Sen. Daryl Jones and Miami political activist Bob Kunst, who made their pitches Saturday to the union's executive committee behind closed doors.
"This is a fantastic endorsement," McBride said. "It will give me an army of supporters."
The committee's recommendation was approved by more than 80 percent of the roughly 250 representatives of several AFL-CIO member unions.
House Minority Leader Lois Frankel was ill and was the only gubernatorial candidate unable to make the meeting, said Rich Templin, the union's spokesman.
The endorsement of the 500,000-member union is viewed as an important step toward winning the Democratic Party nomination.
After the announcement, labor members began chanting, "It's time for Jeb to go!"
"I think it will help McBride with name recognition," said Cindy Hall, president of the Florida AFL-CIO. "Hopefully, Bill McBride will go ahead in the polls. It will help him in collecting money."
Nicole Harburger, a Reno spokesman, said after the vote that Reno still expects to win the nomination.
"We will work with rank and file and labor leadership to win," said Harburger, noting that Reno already has received an endorsement from the plumber's union.
Kunst said he told the committee that he did not want their endorsement. He told the labor officials that both they and the Democratic Party had become too passive.
Jones did not return a call seeking comment on the vote.
Todd Harris, a Bush campaign spokesman, did not immediately comment on McBride's endorsement. Harris criticized McBride for not explaining his platform policies, calling his statements empty "attack rhetoric."