Gov. Mark Dayton picked up more union support for his re-election Monday with the endorsement of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters.
The union represents about 1,600 fire fighters, paramedics, EMTs and dispatchers in 40 communities around the state. Union president Chris Parsons, a St. Paul firefighter, said the union's longtime veterans consider Dayton more attentive to their concerns than any other governor going back 40 years. Dayton has been "extremely attentive to public safety matters when it comes to fire safety," Parson said.
Unlike many unions that reliably back Democrats, the fire fighters union has crossed over to back Republicans, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whom the group backed in both 2002 and 2006. But Pawlenty angered fire fighters toward the end of his term when he proposed diverting money from a state firefighter training account funded by a surcharge on homeowner and commercial assistance.
Fire fighters say the account is needed for up-to-date training and equipment, and Dayton has opposed any move to eliminate it. Parsons also praised Dayton for restoring a higher level of state aid to local governments, which he said allowed many cities to hire and retain fire fighters.
Parsons said Dayton's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, did not reach out to the group to vie for its endorsement.
Parsons said the union has several items on its legislative wishlist next year: enhanced training and equipment tooled for response to possible oil train or pipeline spills; a larger role in community medical response that would allow emergency responders to play a more pro-active role in keeping people out of emergency rooms; and a ban on flame retardant materials in homes that, Parsons said, have been linked in some studies to higher cancer rates in fire fighters.
Dayton said the sacrifice made by fire fighters and their families makes it imperative for political leaders to be responsive to their agenda.
"Whatever I can do, whatever the state of Minnesota government can do to support you in your undertakings is something I feel a personal obligation to do to the maximum extent possible," Dayton said.