A dark horse candidate comes away with a key endorsement in the race to become the next president of the UAW.

While hardly an outsider, Gary Jones, a trained accountant who worked at UAW headquarters in Detroit before becoming director of the union’s western region, bested a couple of other better-known potential candidates for the nomination of the so-called “Reuther” caucus.

The crucial first step for Jones in the union’s tradition-laden process for filling top posts came when he won endorsement from the union executive board’s 14 members.

Jones beat out better-known candidates including Gary Casteel, the union’s secretary-treasurer, and Cindy Estrada, head of the union’s General Motors Dept.

Casteel was nominated for another 4-year term as secretary-treasurer, the caucus says in a release. Casteel had led the UAW’s campaign to organize workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, MS, which ended in an embarrassing defeat for the union.

Estrada, the first woman to head a key bargaining department, was re-nominated as vice president but she has been mentioned as a potential target in an ongoing federal investigation of the union’s joint training funds. No charges have been leveled against Estrada.

Nonetheless, the caucus picked Jones because he was free of the taint of scandal that has rocked the UAW since the federal government indicted the widow of the late General Holiefield, a former UAW vice president.

Holiefield’s widow Monica Morgan and Alphons Iacobelli, a former FCA US vice president and the automaker’s chief negotiator, and others have been indicted on charges of embezzling $4.5 million in joint training funds.

Current UAW President Dennis Williams has been criticized for not moving fast enough to counter the scandal. Williams, who will be 65 at the time of next year’s union election, is retiring after one term because of union policy prohibiting candidates 65 or older from seeking office.

Jones, a long-time union staff member who has been a member of the UAW’s executive board for the past five years, has an insider’s knowledge of the union’s finances and other activities across the country.

The actual vote for UAW president won’t be held until its convention in June. In the past 70 years, no candidate not endorsed by the administrative caucus has successfully campaigned for the union presidency.

Union dissidents have complained for years that the system is rigged and have pressed for direct election of the president by the rank and file. The direct-election issue is expected to come up again at the union’s next convention 2018.

Jones lives outside Kansas City, MO, and has been assistant regional director and then director of UAW Region 5, which covers 17 states including Missouri, California and Washington.

A graduate of the University of Tulsa and a certified public accountant and union staff member since 1990, Jones was appointed top administrative assistant to former UAW Secretary-Treasurer Roy Wyse in 1995 and also served as the union’s chief accountant until his appointment as Region 5 assistant director in 2004.

That Jones is intimately familiar with the union’s finances and its financial problems as membership has shrunk appeals to members of the caucus, which is made up of members of the union’s executive board.

A UAW Local 1895 member, Jones was hired at Ford’s glass plant in Broken Arrow, OK, in 1975. He became a member of UAW Local 249 when he transferred to the Ford assembly plant in Kansas City when the glass plant closed.