Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Big Endorsement: Firefighters, Officers Back Ford

Once again, there is more good news for Congressman Ford and more bad news for Bob Corker.

On Monday, Tennessee firefighters and law enforcement officers officially endorsed Congressman Ford and his bid for the U.S. Senate:

U.S. Senate Democratic nominee Harold Ford Jr. received the endorsement Monday of firefighters and law enforcement officers, who also backed Ford's claim in a controversial TV ad about their pay.

"It was a no-brainer for us," said Gary Moore, who is with the Professional Firefighters Association of Tennessee.

Moore cited Ford's support of federal legislation to give firefighters and law enforcement officers the right to collectively bargain with their employers.

During interviews with all the candidates during the primary, Republican nominee and former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker told first responders he did not believe they should have the right to negotiate with their employers for benefits.

And Moore backed Ford's ad that says Corker froze firefighters' pay while giving himself a raise when he was mayor.

Moore referred to the pay step program put in place to ensure Chattanooga police and firefighters get increases over time of 3 percent to 5 percent each year. Corker suspended the pay step program and substituted it with a 2 percent increase and $500 to offset a $600 health insurance premium increase, Ford officials said.

"He took away their step raises and in the process, gave himself a raise," Moore said.

Brian Moran, president of the Tennessee State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, suggests a "high level of confidence" that Ford would put first responders first in the Senate.

"This endorsement wasn't made by a few committee members," Moran said. "We had the input of all 9,006 law enforcement members in this state. Every lodge cast a ballot."

Ford said the endorsement shows the "confidence of people on the front lines in me, if God forbid, we face a disaster.

"This is further re-enforcement they believe I am best-suited to go to the U.S. Senate," Ford said. "I believe we start by taking care of those on the front lines."

Todd Womack, communications director for Corker, countered the comments by Ford supporters that Corker froze first responders' pay during his time as mayor.

"Bob Corker gave raises to firemen and policemen every single year and one year gave them a higher raise than other city employees, a more than 7 percent increase," Womack said. "There is an ad up on the air right now which Congressman Ford is running which says their pay was frozen, which is absolutely false. It's unfortunate he's willing to let attack ads that the public record clearly shows are verifiably 100 percent inaccurate stay on the air."

Explaining why Corker opposes collective bargaining for first responders, Womack said the former mayor does not support "constraining the ability of fire chiefs and chiefs of police to make important management decisions crucial to keep communities across Tennessee safe."

Ford and Corker are vying for the Senate seat of retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The election is Nov. 7.