A politically influential labor union is looking to build clout in the Philadelphia suburbs – and they’ve already set their sights on some key races.

Chris Woods, executive vice president of District 1199C of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, said growing membership in the metro region had led the union to look to channel its influence outside of its traditional Philadelphia stronghold. 

“We’ve grown our membership outside of Philly so it’s time for us to start moving out there to protect our members,” he said. “We’ve got some big hospitals out in Delco, Montgomery County and Bucks.”

Their initial goal is to help Democrats Tanner Rouse and Linda Fields – an 1199C member – pick up seats in what the union hopes will be competitive state Senate races. 

“Tanner, that’s the No. 1 most competitive race for us. The numbers look really, really good,” Woods said, referring to the Democrats’ voter registration advantage. “Linda is one of our own and we believe her numbers look very good as well. We think we can build a coalition around her.”

Rouse, a former prosecutor, is running to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Tom McGarrigle in the 26th District, which covers Delaware and Chester County – an area that broke for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election by nearly 15 points. 

Fields is vying to challenge Sen. Bob Mensch in the 24th, which spans Berks, Bucks, and Montgomery County. However, that area is much more conservative and broke for Trump by a wide margin.

1199C has long represented about 11,000 health care workers at numerous hospitals scattered across Philadelphia, but now has about 4,000 members in the surrounding counties. Woods wouldn’t say how much money the union planned to put up for campaign donations, but said its membership was a major asset for get-out-the-vote operations.

“We’ll have staff, members, stewards, everyone working these campaigns,” he said. 

Longtime union President Henry Nicholas is an established player in shaping Philadelphia politics over the years. He was a major supporter of the city’s first African-American mayor, Wilson Goode, back the 1980s and the union’s endorsement has been prized in numerous subsequent electoral contests.

Woods says the labor union now hopes to replicate that influence further afield. He hinted that more endorsements could be coming before this year’s primary.

“These are the first races we’re paying attention to right now,” he said. “But there might be some more coming out later.”