Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008 | 2 a.m.
The teachers union has drawn knives on the Culinary Workers, deepening the potential political rifts over Nevada’s Jan. 19 Democratic caucus.
A lawsuit filed late Friday in federal court seeks to stop the Democratic Party from holding caucus meetings at nine Strip hotels, which would diminish the influence of casino workers and hamper Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.
The complaint, with the state teachers union and some party activists as plaintiffs, came as Obama accepted the endorsement of the Culinary Union. The timing seemed designed to cloud the good buzz from his campaign, which could only help Sen. Hillary Clinton’s efforts in the state.
The lawsuit claims that those voting in at-large precincts being held on the Strip would have too much weight compared with those voting at their polling places, violating the equal protection law of the U.S. Constitution. It also claims the at-large precincts violate state statute in the way they were drawn.
State Democratic Party officials disputed the lawsuit’s contentions.
“This has been a fully transparent process,” party spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said. “These rules have been approved by the Democratic National Committee and the campaigns have been fully informed throughout this process, which started in May.”
The party decided to set up polling places at the nine casinos to accommodate those working on the Strip.
But Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, noted that janitors who have to open schools in which caucus meetings take place will be unable to participate if that is not their polling place.
“Why are extraordinary accommodations being made for people on Strip but not the other workers?” she said.
She acknowledged that she did not approach the state party about the problem.
“We’re approaching them now,” she said.
The Nevada State Education Association has not endorsed any candidate, Warne said.
The other plaintiffs are Dwayne Chesnut, John Cahill, Vicky and John Birkland, and Patricia Montgomery.
Some of them were active backers of Sen. Dina Titus’ 2006 bid for governor. Titus, of Las Vegas, has endorsed Clinton.
Mark Ferrario, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, would not comment on how he got the clients, other than to say they care about the fairness of the caucus process.