NEW YORK (AP) -- New York City's biggest government-workers' union is backing City Comptroller John Liu for mayor, its leaders announced Wednesday.
In choosing the Democratic Liu from a crowded field of candidates in this year's election, District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees underscored the populist tenor of his campaign.
Liu will "restore government for the people," union Executive Director Lillian Roberts said at a rally on the City Hall steps. The union, dubbed DC 37 for short, represents 121,000 workers in city government and state agencies.
Liu has sounded themes of economic disparity on the campaign trail, noting that the income gap between the city's rich and poor has grown in recent years, and he also has emphasized his grasp of the city's finances as comptroller and a trained actuary.
But Liu has had to contend with the recent convictions of a former campaign worker and a former fundraiser on charges of scheming to circumvent donation limits. Although Liu was never charged with any wrongdoing and denied knowing anything about his ex-aides' alleged conspiracy, their federal trial unfolded this spring as the campaign got into high gear.
DC 37 leaders praised Liu's efforts as comptroller to spotlight questionable city spending and advocate for curtailing hiring of private contractors for city work. Liu was a vocal critic of a scandal-marred city payroll-technology project and has rapped Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration for not reaching new labor agreements with many unionized city employees whose contracts have expired. Many workers haven't gotten cost-of-living raises for a few years, although some get pay boosts linked to longevity or new credentials.
Liu said he'd come to value DC 37's input on various issues when he was a city councilman, making the endorsement "so personal to me."
Unions are notable factors in Democratic politics in the city and have split their support among various mayoral contenders this year.
Liu, 46, would be New York's first Asian-American mayor if elected. His family immigrated from Taiwan when he was a child.
Quinnipiac University and Marist College polls released in the last week have shown him polling behind four fellow Democrats: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former Comptroller William Thompson and former Rep. Anthony Weiner. Liu has outpolled some other Democratic candidates, including former Councilman Sal Albanese and the Rev. Erick Salgado.
Republican contenders include businessman John Catsimatidis, former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota and nonprofit founder George McDonald.
Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. is running as the Independence Party candidate.
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