Campaign signs on street corners leading up to an election are commonplace.
In a small city like Bradenton Beach, with only two seats open on the commission on the Nov. 6 ballot, signs are displayed to ask for the vote and create awareness for candidates.
Commissioners Ralph Cole and Marilyn Maro, up for election Nov. 6, placed signs around the city stating they are “supported by local firefighters.”
The Suncoast Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of Venice, IAFF Suncoast 2546 union of Venice, provided the endorsement, not the local fire district, as some assumed.
The signs raised concerns for the West Manatee Fire Rescue District, which does not endorse political candidates.
“It’s the firefighters and paramedics union that a majority of firefighters are in, but none of the chief officers or commissioners are in the union, so we don’t endorse candidates,” Jim Davis, WMFR fire marshal, said Oct. 25.
He said WMFR has a policy not to use its name on campaign endorsements and printed materials for the Bradenton Beach candidates appeared “dangerously close” to doing that, Davis said.
The signs did not fully state the union’s name.
Cole and Maro were interviewed by the union to receive the endorsements, which included $1,000 donations to both campaigns.
Bradenton Beach Commission candidates Tjet Martin and John Metz also were invited to interview with the union, but both said they did not accept the invitation.
Martin said her invite wasn’t provided in time to make the trip to Venice for the interview and Metz said he is not accepting outside contributions from organizations, including unions.
Davis said when he saw the signs he discussed the matter with WMFR Chief Tom Sousa.
“We just wanted to make sure people knew that no taxpayers’ dollars in the district were spent and the district doesn’t get involved in the election,” Davis said.