(WHAS11) - House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark (D) Okolona, the highest ranking legislator from Louisville, is not only facing a challenge from the opposing party this fall, but from a union that was one of his biggest supporters.
Clark has never missed a vote in the 27 years he has represented the 46th House District, but the Okolona Democrat's voting record is under fire from Teamsters Local 89. WHAS11 News has obtained an exchange of letters between Clark and Teamsters President Fred Zuckerman.
In the letters, Clark argues that he is "labor's voice at the table," but Zuckerman says Clark has "turned his back on working people."
Though Clark is the incumbent Democrat, the Teamsters president says no incumbent should take union support for granted.
The letter from Zuckerman is unusually blunt. Not only does it say that the union "would no longer support (Clark) in any capacity," it attacks him -- saying he is "not the candidate Labor Unions need when you lie to them and then turn your backs on them."
"The Teamsters, which I respect, they've always endorsed me," Clark said in an interview, " This election isn't about me and Fred Zuckerman. They're disappointed that I voted for the alcohol tax."
One year ago, the General Assembly passed a six percent sales tax on package liquor, sparking protests from distillers and a sense of betrayal from the Teamsters, who say the tax hurts an industry that employs union workers.
Zuckerman says Clark had assured them that the tax would never come to a vote.
Clark says leaders sometimes need to make tough choices.
"The alcohol tax helped with the funding of education," Clark argued, "It helped save jobs, helped the teachers, the cafeteria workers, school bus drivers."
"As far as lying, it's a strong charge, and that didn't happen and I'm not going to get into that debate on that," Clark continued.
"He can no longer be trusted anymore," countered Brian Simpson, Republican candidate in the 46th House District, "He has openly lied to them. He has voted against them. and eventually that will backfire on him."
The Teamsters have endorsed Simpson, a UPS worker and Teamster who supports term limits and aims to reform the tax structure, lower taxes to encourage business, and hire union monitors on school buses.
"I don't see what we have gained by Larry Clark being in power," Simpson said on Tuesday, "I mean he has not used his power for the benefit of this district."
"While Simpson says Clark has sacrificed Jefferson County's interests to further his political ambitions as Speaker Pro Tem, Clark says his experience is a plus as he sets goals for the next session.
"Try to balance the state budget, look for more revenue, continue to promote education, protect our senior citizens, and try to make sure that our most vulnerable citizens have a place at the table," Clark said.
Former Speaker Jody Richards is expected to challenge Clark as Speaker Pro Tem.
Meanwhile, the Teamsters president says other unions might also reconsider their endorsements.
A United Food and Commercial Workers official in Louisville would only say that that union is "now considering endorsements in several important races."
The president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association was unavailable.
And Brown-Forman - the distiller in Clark's district - says it's too early to comment on whether the company will take a stand in Clark's race.