Alameda firefighters will sit out the mayor’s race

Intra-council campaign for mayor: Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Frank Matarrese, Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer.

In recent Alameda elections, the backing of the island’s influential firefighters union has often resulted in victory for candidates. It remains to be seen what happens when they choose to sit out a a race.

Somewhat surprisingly, the firefighters’ union has decided not to weigh-in on the potentially wide-open mayoral race between Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer and Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Frank Matarrese.

However, the Alameda International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 689 union and the  Alameda Police Officers Association announced the endorsement Wednesday of Councilmember Jim Oddie for re-election, as well as former Alameda planning board member John Knox White for the City Council.

But the firefighters decision to stay out the mayor’s race could have significant ramifications for the upcoming November race. Spencer has often clashed with the firefighters, while there has always been mistrust between Matarrese and the union. But the no endorsement could be read as a snub for Ashcraft, who once enjoyed the firefighters support in previous elections.

But a serious rift formed between the union’s leadership and Ashcraft during the controversial search for a new fire chief last year and the scandal that followed involving former city manager Jill Keimach.

“We have high standards when it comes to endorsing candidates that are going to make sure the community is safe,” said IAFF Local 689 President Jeff Del Bono. “That’s why we are only taking a position on the City Council race.”

The press release sent by the unions Wednesday evening announcing the council endorsement made no mention of the mayor’s race. Del Bono, though, confirmed that the union interviewed Spencer, Ashcraft, and Matarrese for the endorsement.

While none of the mayoral candidates can expect the union to pour its considerable resources and ground game into the race, the decision may prove problematic for Ashcraft because it could signal to other East Bay labor unions that they should avoid backing her campaign for mayor.

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