The race to become the next president of the nation's fastest-growing labor union became clearer on Wednesday after one of the candidates dropped out of the contest.
The SEIU's No. 2 official, Anna Burger, was backed by retiring President Andy Stern to succeed him, but some analysts immediately questioned how popular Burger would be with the membership.
Her move makes it almost certain that Mary Kay Henry, head of the union's health care division, will become its new president next month.
Henry, 52, is a native of the Detroit area who made her reputation over the years as a successful organizer of health care workers on the West Coast. She's also a veteran of successful legislative battles to expand health care coverage for low-income children under the so-called SCHIP program.
Burger decided to step aside when Henry lined up the support of a majority of SEIU locals around the country. She said she and Henry share the same goal of a stronger union, and she looks forward to working with her.
"We women have a special knack for putting our egos aside and keeping our eye on the bigger picture and the common good," Burger said in a statement.
The election of a new president of the SEIU is scheduled for early next month.
Stern earlier this month announced his intent to step down from the 2.2-million member union that he helped build into one of the nation's largest and most politically active.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.