For the first time in 98 years, the 330,000-member Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) will not endorse a candidate for president this year. The FOP supported the Republican candidate for President in 2008, 2004, and 2000, and its non-endorsement is seen as a refutation of Mitt Romney.
Why the change? One big reason was Mitt Romney’s support of Senate Bill 5 in Ohio, which stripped collective bargaining rights from police officers.
People familiar with the group’s decision said leaders had been disturbed by Mr. Romney’s statements of strong support for several antiunion initiatives, particularly the move in Ohio to restrict the collective-bargaining rights of public-union employees, including police and firefighters. The measure was overturned by voters in Ohio last year.
Certainly, this isn’t front page news – but perhaps it should be. A couple of the swing states that Romney needs to win in November happen to have a great number of FOP members:
In recent presidential elections, the group’s backing has been much sought after because of the heavy concentration of law enforcement officers in several of the key states. The group counts 39,225 members in Pennsylvania alone and another 24,181 in Ohio and 19,912 in Florida.
The Republican Party’s rabid attack on collective bargaining rights in 2011, particularly in Ohio and Wisconsin, is taking a political toll in 2012. Turns out that many traditionally Republican voters believe that their fire departments should be able to negotiate for adequate safety equipment or that the police officers who risk their lives on the streets should have a seat at the bargaining table.
In Ohio, Senate Bill 5 would have infringed on those rights – and lifelong Republican voters in law enforcement are responding in kind.
One telling anecdote comes from Alec MacGillis’ article on the battleground in Ohio, where he interviewed Sergeant T.K. Assion, the president of FOP Lodge 141 in Youngstown:
“I myself have been a registered Republican my entire life, but that changed this time.”
“Some of my members have flat-out said, ‘I will never again vote for someone who has an R next to their name because of what John Kasich did.’ I will not be voting for Mitt Romney, because he was with the Senate Bill Five people, congratulating them, and has the belief that America should be a right-to-work country. In my opinion, he has no respect for the working man, and, for that alone, I will not vote for him.”
Another former Republican who will cross the aisle in 2012 because of Senate Bill 5 is Ohio firefighter Doug Stern, who went from voting for the GOP his whole life to speaking at the Democratic National Convention last week.
The GOP war on public workers isn’t only hurting Romney. Senator Sherrod Brown received the endorsement of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police in July, becoming the first Democrat to receive the group’s endorsement since 1988.