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August 29, 2007

"First responders" day for presidential candidates

Posted by David Postman at 7:36 AM

The International Association of Fire Fighters is scheduled today to announce its endorsement of Democratic Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd for president. It's a big boost for Dodd who has run in the second tier, at best, among Democratic candidates. The Hartford Courant reports:

The 280,000-member union, whose backing was sought by most major candidates, will provide Dodd with an instant network of local workers throughout the country as well as some potential for more fundraising.

...

IAFF President Harold Schaitberger, a well-known figure in political and Washington insider circles, is expected to make the announcement today at a downtown hotel. Dodd will then immediately embark on a multi-state tour with firefighters, who are particularly active in New Hampshire, the nation's first primary state.

As the New York Times points out, only one major candidate had zero chance of getting the union's backing — former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

In fact, the union has made it a mission to attack his candidacy, issuing a video harshly critical of his management as mayor of New York in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Giuliani today will appear with his own firefighters and law enforcement types, including Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. Giuliani will hold a press conference in South Carolina with the chairmen of "First Responders for Rudy."

Giuliani will appear at a fire station in Greenville with Reichert, chairman of the Law Enforcement Coalition, former New York City police and fire commissioner Howard Safir and Jim Bowie, executive director of the South Carolina State Firefighters Association.

Giuliani spokesman Elliot Bundy said the event is in South Carolina because it is an important early primary state and because there are about 300 professional and volunteer firefighters who have signed on to the Firefighters Coalition for Rudy. Reichert is a former King County sheriff and has some national profile from his work investigating the Green River killer. Said Bundy:

"Reichert's involvement is a recruiting tool for building this coalition across the country. He will have a very active role in the campaign from here on out."

Reichert may be able to help with firefighters, too. The Seattle firefighters union and the State Council of Firefighters endorsed him for re-election last year.

There are benefits for Reichert, too. Said his chief of staff, Mike Shields:

"Its flattering. To be utilized as a surrogate in an important early primary state is exciting."

But I also think that if Reichert can have a meaningful role with the Giuliani campaign it may help take attention away from his close ties to President Bush.

It's interesting timing this week. Monday, Bush was here for Reichert, a visit that turned into a fundraising bonanza for Darcy Burner. Today Reichert appears with Giuliani on the other side of the country. Bush is the past, Giuliani the future — or so Reichert hopes.

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