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Government, Politics & Issues

Missouri police, firefighters groups endorse McCaskill's re-election, as camps plan debates

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 12, 2012 - A day after the Missouri Farm Bureau endorsed her GOP rival, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has announced support from two of the state’s major groups representing police and firefighters: the Missouri chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the Fraternal Order of Police.

McCaskill’s campaign contended that the endorsements were “a testament to her strong record of standing with Missouri's first responders,” and noted that she is a former arson investigator and former Jackson County prosecutor.

The announcements also come as a new poll by Rasmussen, a polling firm generally deemed GOP leaning, shows McCaskill with a slight lead over her Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood.

"Missouri's first responders are heroes in our communities, and they deserve every available resource as they work to keep Missouri families safe from harm," said McCaskill in a statement. "As a former prosecutor, I've gotten to know firsthand the bravery of those who risk their lives every day for our communities and I'm honored to have the support of our police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel in this election…”

Later, in a conference call, she told reporters that public employees such as police, firefighters and school teachers have been unfairly targeted by government cost-cutters on all levels.   "None of the people who go into this line of work go in for the big money," she said.

Representatives of the police and fire groups told reporters that they were supporting McCaskill over Akin because he had voted against various federal grant programs.

McCaskill cited her own Senate votes in favor of grants aimed at helping to equip and train local police and fire departments, and her support “of legislation to secure long-overdue benefits for the heroes of 9/11,” referring to police and firefighters injured during the 2001 terrorist attacks and the cleanup.

"Firefighters and paramedics in Missouri know we've got a senator on our side and we're proud to endorse Claire so she can continue working hard for first responders across our state," said Sherwood Smith of Fire Fighters Local 42.

"Claire knows firsthand the challenges and needs of our first responders and fire fighters, and that matters. It's rare to find a Senator like Claire who consistently delivers for Missouri's fire fighters, making sure we're able to protect Missouri's families day in and day out," said Tony Kelly, President of the Missouri Council of Firefighters.

The council says it "represents more than 7,000 full-time professional fire fighters, emergency medical service personnel and other first-responders that serve Missourians every day.”

"As police officers work every day to serve and protect Missouri's families, we need Claire working hard as our partner in the Senate for another six years," said Kevin Ahlbrand, president of Missouri Fraternal Order of Police. "It's critical that our elected officials be responsive to the needs of our local law enforcement, and Claire has shown that she'll support Missouri's finest so that we can continue to protect Missouri's families."

According to the release: “The Fraternal Order of Police has a proud 97-year history of representing police officers and local law enforcement. Their current membership includes over 320,000 law enforcement officers across the county, more than 5,500 of which are in Missouri.”

(Start of update)Akin spokesman Ryan Hite replied, "It's not unexpected for Senator McCaskill to receive endorsements from union leadership, but we are enjoying a great base of support from rank and file police officers, fire fighters and all first responders."

Negotiations continue over debates

Meanwhile, McCaskill called for "at least three televised debates" -- one apiece on St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield -- before the Nov. 6 election. She said her campaign is continuing to negotiate with Akin's representatives.

An Akin spokesman confirmed the congressman's comments in western Missouri on Wednesday that he wants to see at least two debates in September, and perhaps one or more in October.

However, both sides so far have agreed to only one: a forum scheduled for Sept. 21 in Columbia, sponsored by the Missouri Press Association. (End of update)

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