Firefighters unions back Carnahan in his primary battle against Clay
The region’s two major firefighters’ unions are supporting U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan in his Democratic primary contest against U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., a sign of the divisions within labor over what could be this summer’s most divisive Democratic battle.
The firefighters’ decision to jump into the fray could further alter the dynamics, since the Locals 73 and 2665 have become a potent political force. Local 73 represents the city's firefighters, while 2665 represents several thousand firefighters in St. Louis County.
(The unions are separate from any firefighter associations that involve some subgroups.)
In 2010, for example, the firefighters unions played a significant role in the 24th District state Senate contest in St. Louis County, by siding with Republican newcomer John Lamping over County Council president Barbara Fraser. Lamping won, even though the 24th District leaned Democratic.
In Carnahan's case, union leaders joined him at a news conference Monday in Soulard to praise what they viewed as his solid support for firefighters and labor.
“Russ, you’ve always had our back. We’ll always have yours,’’ said Bill Hill, head of Local 73’s retired firefighters group.
Mark Woolbright, regional vice president for the International Association of Fire Fighters, praised Carnahan for his efforts to gain federal aid for firefighters.
At stake is over who will represent the new 1st congressional district, as redrawn by the Republican-dominated Missouri General Assembly. Although boundaries largely take in the current 1st District, now represented by Clay, at least 20 percent of the territory – and potentially more of the turnout – comes from what is now Carnahan’s 3rd District.
Carnahan disputes any characterization that Clay is the incumbent. “I think it will be hard to paint me as an outsider,’’ Carnahan said.
The contest has racial overtones because the 1st District was Missouri's first to elect an African-American to the U.S. House: Clay's father, William L. Clay.
Carnahan has disputed any such talk, but his new campaign manager is African-American.
Carnahan has sought, instead, to challenge Clay's leadership because of what he alleged was Clay's role in persuading two Democratic legislators in the 1st to overturn Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of the new map that, in effect, did away with Carnahan's district. The new 3rd District is largely the current 9th.
Clay, a longtime friend of Nixon, has denied lobbying the legislators to override Nixon's veto.
The matter of the map's constitutionality (Carnahan claims it's not) remains before the Missouri Supreme Court, even though candidate filing ended almost a month ago. Carnahan long had maintained hope that the court would order that a new congressional map would be drawn, which presumably might restore his district and make it unnecessary for him to challenge Clay.
On Monday, Carnahan acknowledge that the contest is called a "hot" race, and added, "I'm not one to run away from a fire."