Ally no more: Union takes on top Democrat facing re-election

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s powerful Democratic Senate president is an ironworkers union executive facing harsh attacks from a surprising source in his bid for re-election: the state’s largest teacher’s union.

Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney finds himself without the support of the influential New Jersey Education Association heading into the November election. Instead, the teachers’ union has thrown its support behind Republican challenger Fran Grenier. Sweeney is spending tens of thousands of dollars on television commercials through next week. The union is defending its support for Grenier, saying members see him as a better steward of their interests than Sweeney, who fell out of favor last year after he pulled his support for a constitutional amendment that would mandate payments into the teachers’ debt-laden pension fund. The battle between Sweeney and the NJEA comes as national Democrats focus on mending divisions among the party’s factions. But this fight stems from a distinctly New Jersey disagreement.