Dean's Failure to Woo N.H. Firefighters May Cost Him Endorsement.
By Dana Milbank - The Washington Post - Sunday, September 14, 2003
Sparks are flying between the former Vermont governor and a crucial group in the New Hampshire primaries, the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire labor union. The group's fiercely active 1,200 members and their highly visible mode of transportation were instrumental in Al Gore's defeat of Bill Bradley in the New Hampshire primary in 2000. This time, Dean is in the hot seat.
It began when the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont sent a letter in June to their brethren in New Hampshire warning that Dean "failed to ever put the weight of the governor's office behind any piece of legislation firefighters introduced." The Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire got hold of the letter and produced a statement from Dean's campaign outlining his strong stance against . . . sparklers. "It's fair to call him a national advocate against sparklers," the statement said.
The firefighters were not impressed by Dean's opposition to party novelties. "We think he should be focused on first responders, not pyrotechnics," said New Hampshire union President David Lang, noting that the group is agnostic on sparklers.
Dean has twice blown off meetings proposed by the firefighters and hasn't been in touch with them since the last meeting was canceled on Aug. 22. The firefighters are steamed. "I'm glad New Hampshire's firefighters have a better response time," Lang said.
Dean's state director, Karen Hicks, sought to douse the conflagration on Friday. "We really look forward to meeting with the professional firefighters at a time when it works for Dr. Dean and Mr. Lang," she said.
But it may be too late. At the firefighters' parent union, the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington, General President Harold A. Schaitberger said the IAFF is getting ready to endorse a presidential candidate at an executive board meeting at the end of the month. Schaitberger, who has met with all the major candidates, won't say who it will be, but people who have been following the endorsement sweepstakes say Dean will be hosed. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) is said to be the heavy favorite for the endorsement, which would be his first from an AFL-CIO union.