A Republican wave swept the country in yesterday’s midterm elections. With several key races still undecided, and a December 6 run-off in Louisiana’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, the GOP picked up eight Senate seats, a net gain of 14 seats (as of now) in the U.S. House of Representatives and three governorships. Several other races have yet to be called. Additionally, Republicans won control of several state legislative chambers.
The GOP wave propelled successes on the gubernatorial level in the traditionally blue states of Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts. Several members of the Republican class of 2010, including Governors Scott Walker (R-WI), Rick Scott (R-FL), Paul LePage (R-ME) and Rick Snyder (R-MI) also benefited from national tide and won re-election.
Democrats lost eight legislative chambers this election cycle. In Oregon, Democrats bolstered their majorities in both chambers. Fire Fighters fought successfully to maintain Democratic control in the Maine, Kentucky and Washington state Houses and the Iowa Senate, where two IAFF members serve -- Chris Brase from Muscatine Local 608 and Jeff Danielson from Cedar Falls Local 1366.
In New York, IAFF affiliates have partnered with the minority Republican Caucus in the Senate to thwart anti-fire fighter proposals from Governor Andre Cuomo. The elections produced a clear majority for our GOP allies and will provide a vital backstop against further attacks.
In the Senate, Republican candidates prevailed in both red and blue states, unseating Democrats in North Carolina, Arkansas, Iowa, Colorado, South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana. Ballots are still being tallied in the Alaska race between Senator Mark Begich and challenger Dan Sullivan. IAFF-backed Democrat incumbents Ed Markey (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), Chris Coons (DE), Dick Durbin (IL), Al Franken (MN), Jeff Merkley (OR), Jack Reed (RI), Tom Udall (NM) and Brian Schatz (HI) all won re-election, and Representative Gary Peters won the Michigan seat replacing retiring Senator Carl Levin. Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME), Thad Cochran (MI) and John Cornyn (TX) were also victorious and had the IAFF’s support.
The IAFF and its affiliates worked to elect fire fighter- and union-friendly candidates in federal, state and local races, with mixed success. In Pennsylvania, our friend Tom Wolf unseated anti-union Governor Tom Corbett. Fire fighters in Connecticut and Colorado protected incumbent Governors Dan Malloy and John Hickenlooper, respectively. In New Hampshire, both incumbent U.S. Senator Jean Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassen won close races with the strong support of the IAFF gold and black.
In West Virginia and Oklahoma, IAFF-backed candidates Shelley Moore Capito and Jim Lankford coasted to victory in their respective bids for the U.S. Senate.
Unfortunately, many longstanding IAFF allies were also swept out of office.
“The IAFF proudly adhered to our principle of supporting our friends, regardless of party affiliation,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “We will never run from a fight or desert those who have stood with our union and its members regardless of the odds or political climate.”
There were also some significant victories for IAFF affiliates in referenda elections.
Three of the highest profile were in Phoenix, Arizona, Pueblo, Colorado and Anchorage, Alaska.
In Phoenix, a ballot initiative to replace the city’s defined benefit pension plan with a 401(k)-style program was rejected by the voters. Local 493 led the coalition of public employees and labor in defeating this attack.
In Pueblo, voters supported their fire fighters and approved a referendum to provide collective bargaining rights to the members of Pueblo Rural Fire District Local 3319.
And Anchorage voters rejected a proposal to strip bargaining rights from the city’s public employees. Anchorage Local 1264 was in the forefront of this battle.
Some of our own also won their own races for legislative posts. Mike Bost, a retired IAFF member from Murphysboro, IL Local 3042, unseated freshman Representative Bill Enyart (D-IL) and will become the first professional fire fighter elected to Congress.
On the federal level, many pundits are tying the Republican victories to President Obama’s unpopularity. The president will now be tested as Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who won re-election in a hotly contested race, will become the Senate Majority Leader in the 114th Congress. House Speaker John Boehner, who has long enjoyed IAFF backing, easily won re-election in his Ohio congressional district and will preside over the largest Republican House majority since 1928.
“While the IAFF is proud of our bi-partisan political and legislative posture, we expect significant challenges with respect to pension, health care, labor and employment rights-related issues,” says Schaitberger. “Our union has always worked well with Republicans. But, we recognize that many in the Tea Party wing of the GOP are out to destroy labor and workers’ rights. We will work with our friends in the GOP and our Democratic allies to beat back these impending attacks.”
He adds, “The voters have spoken. Whether in Washington, or at the state and local levels, the IAFF and our leaders will work with our elected officials or battle with them, when necessary, to protect the health and safety and rights of our membership and this union as we have done for nearly a century.”