CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- In May, the West Virginia AFL-CIO launched a TV ad attacking acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in the Democratic primary.
In the ad, the AFL-CIO family of unions said Tomblin was only "acting" like he was a friend of West Virginia's working families. It was designed to help labor's favored candidate, House Speaker Rick Thompson, who came in second among Democrats in the May 14 primary.
Now fast forward to this month.
In an about-face, the state's largest collection of unionized workers is endorsing Tomblin in the Oct. 4 general election.
AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue attributed the unions' change of heart to fears about Tomblin's Republican opponent, Bill Maloney.
Perdue said in a telephone interview Tuesday he was "scared" by Maloney's "right-wing" positions, particularly Maloney's vow to have West Virginia join a legal battle seeking to stop the Obama administration's health care overhaul.
"We're trying to get affordable health care out there, and he's trying to take it away," Perdue said.
Perdue also said the turnaround followed several months of talks between labor leaders and Tomblin. Perdue said the two sides didn't make specific commitments related to the endorsement.
And there remain some differences between Tomblin, a conservative Democrat, and the unions that make up the AFL-CIO.
Asked Tuesday why the unions had changed their minds about him, Tomblin cracked a smile.
"I guess they just had a vision," Tomblin said of the unions, waving his hand over his face.
Tomblin's remarks came during an interview of him and Maloney by the Daily Mail editorial board.
Tomblin said he was very honored to have union endorsements.
"My door has always been open to labor," Tomblin said.
Still, that doesn't mean he always agrees with unions.
For instance, unions strongly oppose "right-to-work" laws that would prevent union-only workplaces.
Tomblin said while he didn't think the time was right for such a law, he would consider signing a bill if by some chance it reached his desk.
Likewise, when asked if he thought wages paid to some government contractors were perhaps too high, Tomblin said he had questions about how these "prevailing wages" were calculated. Unions would not like to see those wages go down.
Perdue said Tomblin's answer to the prevailing wage question was "interesting."
Still, Perdue defended the unions' decision to endorse a candidate they once opposed.
"When a primary election is over with, you soon get over it and move on," he said.
Perdue also rejected the notion that the state's unions were weakened politically.