Fire Fighters Win Big in 2012 Elections
November 7, 2012 -- The IAFF’s political principle of supporting those who
support us – regardless of political party – was tested up and down the ballot
in elections across the country in the presidential contest as well as in
congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative races.
After a long and hard-fought campaign, IAFF-endorsed candidates Barack Obama and
Joe Biden were re-elected president and vice president of the United States.
Obama was declared the winner with 303 electoral votes, after taking the key
battleground states of Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia,
Nevada and Colorado. Florida, with 29 electoral votes at stake, has yet to be
The IAFF supported Obama and Biden based on their record of support on issues
affecting the nation’s professional fire fighters and paramedics. From pensions
to staffing, training and equipment, as well as dozens of other matters,
President Obama and Vice President Biden have had IAFF members’ backs, while
Mitt Romney stood in direct opposition to those issues.
“The outcome of the presidential election proves that supporting our friends and
opposing our enemies is a winning strategy,” says IAFF General President Harold
Schaitberger. “And because of the grassroots efforts of our affiliates and
members, election night proved very successful for our union.”
At the state level, where fire fighter pensions and worker rights have been
under attack, efforts by the IAFF and its affiliates to elect fire
fighter-friendly governors were successful in several close races in New
Hampshire, Montana, West Virginia and Washington. In North Carolina, former
Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory defeated his Democratic challenger, Lieutenant
Governor Walter Dalton.
In one of the most critical ballot initiatives across the country, the IAFF and
the California Professional Firefighters were partners in an incredible victory
to defeat Proposition 32, a ballot measure that would have shut down the ability
of both unions and corporations to collect dues from their members or employees
to be used for political purposes without their explicit approval. The
California Professional Firefighters led the “No on Prop 32” campaign, and the
CPF and the IAFF devoted significant resources to the effort and worked
relentlessly to educate voters and get people to the polls.
The IAFF was also fully invested in multiple contested Senate races, including
Massachusetts, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Maine, Wisconsin,
Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, North Dakota and Montana.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts endorsed Elizabeth Warren, who
defeated incumbent Senator Scott Brown 53 percent to 47 percent. To help Warren
win, the PFFM dispatched a gold-and-black wrapped bus to support her campaign as
she traveled across the state.
Another gold-and-black bus chartered by the Missouri State Council of Fire
Fighters (MSCFF) crisscrossed that state in support of incumbent Senator Claire
McCaskill, who faced opponent Todd Akin in what was considered an easy pick-up
for Akin until his comments on “legitimate rape” derailed his campaign.
McCaskill held on to her seat by more than a 15 percentage point margin.
In Virginia, the race between two former governors for the Senate seat vacated
by retiring Senator Jim Webb was another very close contest, but Tim Kaine came
out on top, winning the seat 52 percent to 47 percent. The Professional Fire
Fighters of Virginia backed Kaine, fearing an Allen victory would inspire state
legislators to attack public employee rights and benefits.
The Professional Firefighters of Florida mobilized its members to campaign on
behalf of Senator Bill Nelson in his race against Representative Connie Mack.
The FPF has supported Nelson for decades, and its efforts paid off with a 55
percent to 42 percent win for Nelson.
In Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown soundly defeated challenger Josh Mandel 50
percent to 45 percent. The Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters was
fully engaged in the campaign to re-elect Brown, who has consistently supported
collective bargaining rights for public employees.
In the battleground state of Wisconsin, U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin
conquered her opponent, former Governor Tommy Thompson 51 percent to 46 percent.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin endorsed Baldwin to take the seat
now occupied by Herb Kohl, a Democrat who is retiring.
In the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, a long-time supporter of IAFF
members, defended his seat in a tight contest against Representative Dennis
Rehberg 49 percent to 45 percent. Throughout the campaign, the Montana State
Council of Professional Fire Fighters focused its efforts on educating members
on the candidates’ records, including Tester’s support for the Staffing for
Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.
In what may prove to be the biggest upset of the cycle, Heidi Heitkamp has
defeated Representative Rick Berg in the race to succeed retiring Senator Kent
Conrad. Most pundits predicted Berg to prevail in the solidly red state.
Former Maine Governor Angus King, an Independent endorsed by the Professional
Fire Fighters of Maine, won the U.S. Senate seat left open by retiring U.S.
Senator Olympia Snowe.
The results of several state House and Senate races could make a big difference
for IAFF members. In Maine and Minnesota, the Professional Fire Fighters of
Maine and the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters were able to flip both the
state House and Senate. In Maine, this creates a firewall against anti-labor
governor Paul LePage and puts state legislators on the side of labor in
Minnesota, where last session state leaders proposed Right-to-Work legislation.
In addition, IAFF affiliates’ efforts helped pick up fire fighter-friendly
majorities in state houses in Colorado and Oregon and held state houses in
Kentucky, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington. In state Senate races, IAFF
affiliates worked successfully to pick up a labor-friendly majority in New York
and held state Senates Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and
A number of IAFF members ran for elected office. In Florida, in possibly one of
the most shocking upsets in Florida legislative history, Democratic challenger
and former Longwood Local 3163 fire fighter Mike Clelland leads Representative
Chris Dorworth – the Republican candidate in line to become speaker of the
Florida House of Representatives – by 37 votes. An unknown number of provisional
ballots must still be counted.
In New Mexico, there were several hotly contested races in the state
legislature, including in Albuquerque's North Valley where Albuquerque Local 244
fire fighter Emily Kane faced off with Republican attorney Chris Saucedo, who
lost to Kane 51 to 49.
In Iowa, in the race for the District 30 Senate seat in Black Hawk County,
incumbent Democrat Jeff Danielson, a member of Waterloo Local 1366, defeated
Republican challenger Matt Reisetter by more than 600 votes. Muscatine, IA Local
608 fire fighter Chris Brase was also victorious in his first political race for
the Iowa Senate against incumbent state Senator Shawn Hamerlinck for Senate
Massachusetts State Senator Ken Donnelly, a retired Lexington, MA Local 1491
fire fighter and former secretary-treasurer for the Professional Fire Fighters
of Massachusetts, will serve another term after a resounding victory over his
Republican opponent, Gerry Dembrowski. Donnelly has held the seat since 2008,
when he defeated Republican Brion Cangiamila of Billerica in a landslide
following former Democratic state Senator James Marzilli's decision to step