John Sweeney began this year backing Thomas Donahue for the presidency of the AFL-CIO. Today, in the first contested election in the union's history, he defeated Donahue to take control of the federation. According to a preliminary count, Sweeney received 7.3 million votes to Donahue's 5.7 million. The avowed rebel of American labor, Sweeney praised Donahue, his former mentor and a representative of the union's old guard, but said it was time for a change. "I believe the secret to protecting the labor movement lies in not protecting it, that we revitalize the AFL-CIO by opening up debate," Sweeney said during a four-month campaign that deeply divided the 13 million-member union. As president, Sweeney will be seeking to reverse a steep decline in the union's membership and influence suffered under the 16-year tenure of previous leader Lane Kirkland. To do so, he promises to involve more women and minorities at the union's higher levels and to intensify recruitment efforts.