Michael Stender

Two IAFF members running for state seats – Harrisburg, PA Local 428 member Michael Stender and Covington, KY Local 38 member Charles “Buddy” Wheatley – won elections on May 16. Stender will join the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, while Wheatley moves on to Kentucky’s general election for Secretary of State. 

“I want to congratulate Brothers Stender and Wheatley on their victories,” said General President Edward Kelly. “They are champions of the fire service, and I know their voices will be important for IAFF members across Pennsylvania and Kentucky.”  

With 64 percent of the vote, Stender (R) defeated Democratic challenger Trevor Finn and Libertarian challenger Elijah Scretching in the special election race to fill the Pennsylvania House District 108. The seat was left open by Lynda Schlegel Culver (R) when she was elected to the state senate in a separate special election earlier this year. 

“The Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association (PPFFA) was proud to support Brother Stender’s campaign,” said PPFFA President Robert Brooks. “We look forward to working with him in his new capacity as state representative. Having one of our own to be a constant presence in the state legislature will be a tremendous asset to our membership.” 

Stender is a 10-year veteran of the Harrisburg Fire Department and an active Local 428 member. He has a degree in political science from Bloomsburg University and served as the PPFFA legislative director from 2014-2019.  

Buddy Wheatley

“I look forward to continuing to fight for issues critical to public safety and the opportunity to work hard on behalf of all my constituents,” said Stender. “I appreciate all the help I have received from my brother and sister fire fighters as well as the political action training opportunities at the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit, 4th district PEP, and other events.” 

FIREPAC matched the PPFFA’s $2,500 donation to Stender’s campaign. 

Covington, KY Local 38 member Wheatley ran unopposed in the Democratic Primary for the office of Secretary of State. He will face the Republican incumbent Michael Adams in November.  

“Brother Wheatley’s dedication to the interests of the fire service and the labor movement is unmatched,” said Kentucky Professional Fire Fighters President Joe Baer. “We are proud to continue our support as he continues his campaign for Secretary of State.”

After a 20-year tenure with the Covington Fire Department, serving as fire chief in 2005, Wheatley retired in 2008. Throughout his career, he remained active within Local 38, holding the position of secretary-treasurer on the executive board for a number of years.

“Serving as a fire fighter inspired me to want to do more for my community,” said Wheatley. “It’s why I ran for state representative and why I am now running for Secretary of State. And I will always be a voice for labor in any role I take on.”

Upon earning his law degree while serving as chief, Wheatley launched a career as a labor attorney, with the KPFF continuing to be one of his most valued clients. 

Wheatley was elected in 2018 to serve as state representative for the 65th District, a position he held until 2022. Shortly after, he declared his candidacy for the office of Secretary of State.