International Association of Firefighters General President Harold Schaitberger has confirmed the IAFF will not endorse a presidential candidate in the general election. Schaitberger’s comments came during his “State of the Union” address this (Monday) morning at the IAFF’s annual convention in Las Vegas.
Without mentioning Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton by name, Schaitberger said, “We have two candidates who seem to have trouble telling the truth.” The union leader told the membership, “Their rancor and rhetoric is over the top.”
Schaitberger cited polling conducted of IAFF members and the feedback from the union’s leadership that indicated a very sharp division about the presidential candidates. Schaitberger said, “A decision to endorse either way could have the real potential to do real harm to our union solidarity.”
Here is more from Harold Schaitberger’s remarks (beginning at 45:21 in the video above):
The fact is we do have one candidate who has been good on our issues as a former United States Senator. And another candidate, on the other side, who says some crazy things and who doesn’t have a record on our issues and who is running as a unconventional outsider. But we cannot ignore that we have a more heated and ugly dialogue going on in our country and in this union over this election, over these candidates, than we’ve seen in modern times.
We have two candidates that seem to have trouble telling the truth. Their rancor and rhetoric is over the top. We hear it in the media among voters of all stripes — and I know we are hearing it in the stations where our members work. We have a serious split because both candidates have negatives and unfavorable ratings that are at historical and record breaking numbers.
As a board we have discussed that deep and emotional divide in strongly held positions throughout our ranks. So we decided that endorsing a candidate for president in these circumstances would be devastating to so much of what we built and counter-productive to our members interests.
This decision was not taken lightly. We’ve considered it several times over the course of this political season and as recently as last week when we passed a motion not to endorse. We feel strongly that this is the right decision for this election.
In October, the union abandoned plans to endorse Hillary Clinton for president for the primary season. Details of this decision were covered in an article by New York Times reporters Noam Scheiber and Amy Chozick:
Harold A. Schaitberger, the union’s general president, informed Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, in a telephone call on Monday. According to a union official, Mr. Schaitberger told Mr. Mook that the executive board and rank-and-file members — the latter were recently polled — did not support a Clinton endorsement.
The impetus for Mr. Schaitberger’s call to Mr. Mook were conversations about the endorsement at the board’s meetings in mid-September, when board members expressed interest in the possibility that Vice PresidentJoseph R. Biden Jr. would join the Democratic field.
“Secretary Clinton doesn’t sell well here,” said Roy L. McGhee III, better known as Sandy McGhee, an I.A.F.F. board member who represents Texas and Oklahoma. “I think the Republican attack machine, the media machine, has made sure of that. The vice president will do better. He’s popular among firefighters.”
Schaitberger told convention delegates the union would focus its efforts and resources on down ballot races saying, “We will continue to play heavy and hard in the United States Congressional and Senate races where we can make the most difference.”