Portland Firefighters Join AFSCME in Endorsing Both Ted Wheeler and Jules Bailey

The dual endorsements mean neither candidate will have the unions' firepower behind him.

The Portland Firefighters Association has joined the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 189 in essentially sitting out the Portland mayor's race.

Wednesday, the powerful firefighters' union announced it was endorsing both Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey in the May primary.

That means neither Wheeler nor Bailey can draw on the union's considerable influence to hammer on his opponent—a fact that is sure to disappoint Wheeler and Bailey.

It's also a sign that it's not clear to unions who's likely to win.

Alan Ferschweiler, president of the firefighters' union, says his 700 member came to the conclusion they want to have the best possible relationship with whoever takes office.

In 2012, the firefighters sided with then-state Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-Portland), giving him a whopping $30,000. (They later pulled their endorsement after news reports surfaced that Smith had hit a woman at a college party in 1993.)

Mayor Charlie Hales, of course, went on to win, and Ferschweiler says it has been difficult for the union to repair its relationship with the mayor.

"We didn't want to start this relationship off with the same footing," he says.

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