LAS VEGAS – Nevada's most politically powerful labor union is staying out of the 2020 Democratic presidential nominating race.
The Culinary Union on Thursday announced it would not back a contender in the wide-open race to challenge President Donald Trump.
Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline revealed the decision in a press conference streamed live on Facebook.
“We've worked really hard to make sure members know what's going on with the candidates, and we're not stopping that,” she said. “We're going to endorse our goals, what we're doing. We're not going to endorse a political candidate.
“We're going to make sure people vote and we're going to work really hard to defeat President Trump.”
The announcement deals a blow to longtime Nevada poll-leader Joe Biden, whose campaign is reeling from unexpectedly poor support in the nation’s first two presidential nominating contests.
The former vice president was once considered the frontrunner for a Culinary endorsement, especially after securing early backing from Nevada state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, the union’s influential former political director. Biden also has a longstanding relationship with political kingmaker and ex-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, though Reid, too, has sworn off of a pre-caucus endorsement.
More: Nevada's most powerful labor union warns workers of Bernie Sanders' health care plan
Related: Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Steyer to campaign to Culinary Union in Las Vegas
Progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was also thought to be a top contender for the union’s backing, but her own lackluster showings in Iowa and New Hampshire appear to have scuttled that possibility.
Thursday’s decision may come as a relief to fellow New England progressive Sanders, who had become a top target for union bosses worried about his plan to provide Medicare to all Americans.
Culinary members fear the proposal would immediately dismantle the union’s top-tier private insurance plan. Their decision to stay out of the race spares Sanders a potentially devastating, union-orchestrated campaign to nominate a more moderate contender.
The Culinary Union represents 60,000 housekeepers, porters and bartenders working in Las Vegas casinos. Unite Here, the parent of the Culinary Union, announced in January that it is not planning to endorse a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary.
The Culinary is considered one of the more influential forces in Democratic politics in the state. Democratic candidates have been aggressive in courting the group's support.
But the local sat out the 2016 Democratic primary after a divisive endorsement eight years earlier undermined its image as a well-oiled political machine.
Early caucusing in Nevada begins on Feb. 15 at any one of 80 locations around the state. In-person caucusing is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Feb. 22. Nevada’s closed caucus system is open to registered Democrats who will be over the age of 18 by Nov. 3.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
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