Paris goes big for Hillary Clinton

But the big loser may be the Culinary Workers Union


Joan Walsh
January 20, 2008 3:50AM (UTC)

LAS VEGAS -- CNN is now projecting Hillary Clinton will win the Nevada caucuses. I covered the caucus at the Paris Hotel and Casino, and I had no idea what was going on outside, but inside the Concorde ballroom caucus site here, Clinton supporters heavily outnumbered Obama backers. The big loser, at least at Paris, was the Culinary Workers Union, which backed Obama.

Around 11 a.m., workers began lining up to caucus, some in red CWU/Obama T-shirts, but they were quickly outnumbered by workers with red and black "I support the Union and I support Hillary" placards and T-shirts.

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Paris banquet worker Patricio Gajardo, a Hillary supporter, relished the apparent setback for the union, at least here at Paris. "The union pressured us all the time. But they never return our phone calls when we need something." The Clinton side of the room is heavily Latino.

Ray Wadsworth, a laid-off Bally's worker who is strongly supporting Obama, got into a shouting match with Nicky Nicolescu, a cocktail bar worker at Paris, still wearing a short skirt and heels from her shift, with a Hillary T-shirt on top. Wadsworth pointed to the six-year strike at Frontier, a now-closed hotel. "Bill Clinton never walked a picket line at Frontier. Hillary Clinton's never walked a picket line in her life." Nicolescu tried to settle him down. "All the candidates are good," she told him. She's supporting Clinton "because she's the woman for the job. And I loved when her husband was president." She also blamed the union for the infighting. "They have put a lot of pressure on us, but nobody tells me what to do."

This could be an anomalous precinct; we got reports that at Wynn, turnout is lower and seems to favor Obama. Because of allegations of intimidation by CWU leaders at Paris, the Clinton campaign has focused attention here. Chelsea Clinton campaigned here Friday; former President Clinton was here this morning. And AFSCME president Gerald McEntee is here ushering people to the Clinton side of the room. "I think she's gonna upset him here," he said with a smile. McEntee later got into a shouting match with Wadsworth, who came over to heckle the Clinton supporters, but as the count begins, he's smiling again.

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Jennifer Blair, a bartender at Bally's, remained undecided. She said she was sad to see the union endorse a candidate, and even sadder to see union members trying to shout each other down with "Hillary" and "Obama" chants. "We're supposed to be a union, but now we're divided." Blair was standing in a group of two other undecided voters. In the final count Clinton outpolled Obama 211-98. Of five John Edwards supporters, two went with Obama. That's a delegate count of 42 for Hillary and 19 for Obama. More to come.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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2008 Elections

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