Firefighters pump cash into local PA politics

The International Association of Firefighters Local 291 is getting more involved in politics this year than it has in the past. The Lancaster branch of IAFF 291 has chosen to support 13 candidates in the upcoming election, union representative KJ Watts said.

It's not unusual for the firefighters' organization to endorse candidates in an election. But this year is different.

IAFF 291 has donated more to candidates this year than in the past, Watts said. They've donated an estimated $7,200 to 13 candidates, according to campaign finance reports filed last week with the Fairfield County Board of Elections.

The IAFF hasn't had the funds in years past to donate to as many candidates as it did this year, Watts said. The organization raised funds from within. "Traditionally, the Republican slate has not found favor with the labor organizations," said Fairfield County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Steve Davis.

"It puts Republicans in a good position to win the election." Lancaster's Republicans do not have a very large margin over Democrats, Davis said. The margin is much higher in Fairfield County than the city.

The average campaign donation in Lancaster is $100, Davis said.

The limit for campaign contributions made by IAFF to a local candidate is $10,670 per election campaign, as stated on the Ohio Secretary of State's Web site, www.sos.state.oh.us.

Davis said the organization's decision to donate so much to local campaigns this year is a change in Lancaster.

Former firefighters have been the only candidates to get financial support in the past.

And the amounts have never been as great as they are this year.

Lancaster Mayor Dave Smith said he doesn't think political party affiliation affected how the IAFF decided which candidates to support this year.

The organization endorsed Smith, a Republican for mayor. His challenger, City Councilman Jerry Woodgeard, is a Democrat.

Smith was interviewed by an IAFF committee. The committee members debated which candidate to endorse.

"I just think they liked my answers," Smith said.

The IAFF chooses to endorse for positions that will affect Lancaster's firefighters, Watts said.

Smith and Lancaster City Council determine the fire department's budget.


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