MANCHESTER — Former state Sen. Jackie Cilley got a major boost in her campaign for the state's open governor's seat today when she won the endorsement of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire.
Union president David Lang told the New Hampshire Union Leader the association's board of directors has picked Cilley over fellow former state Sen. Maggie Hassan and businessman Bill Kennedy in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
The board this morning brought its unanimous recommendation to about 75 delegates representing the PPFNH's 42 locals at a bimonthly meeting at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester. The delegates voted to accept the recommendation.
“What we're doing is making a recommendation to our members that we believe that Jackie Cilley has got the skill set, the experience and the vision to lead the State of New Hampshire as governor,” Lang said Tuesday.
"I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of this endorsement because you're all leaders and you all go out and serve your fellow citizens every single day," said Cilley. "We have a state to make right, We have to make sure we offer a quality education, provide quality infrastructure, a clean environment, and that everyone feels safe in New Hampshire.
"Finally, your families participate in this economy and you and your families to contribute to rebuilding this economy," she said. "And you deserve the recognition and respect that your service merits. You are on the front lines and will always have a place at the table "
If Cilley wins the Sept. 11 primary against Hassan and Kennedy, the endorsement will likely stand for the general election, Lang said. If she does not win, he said, the board will consider whether to make a new endorsement.
PFFNH, headquartered in Londonderry, represents more than 2,000 active and retired firefighters and paramedics.
Lang said the board members liked Cilley's “plain, straight-talk. In today's political environment, I think that's refreshing.”
He also said the board was impressed by her refusal to pledge to veto a broadbased tax. Hassan has taken the traditional “pledge,” while Kennedy also has refused.
“With the challenges that are currently facing New Hampshire, and there are plenty, we have to come to the table together and everything has to be put on the table,” Lang said.
“I don't think New Hampshire can go through two more years of what it's gone through and it's going to take somebody special to put all the stakeholders at the table and have a conversation with them,” he said.
Lang said the PPFNH has never taken a position on a broadbased tax but has supported of “the concept of expanded gambling.”
“If we don't have a discussion of how we fund state government, it has a really negative impact on local services, such as police and fire. In the last two years, there has been incredible downshifting of the cost of state government to local communities,” said Lang.
“The easiest path is to say what you're against,” said Lang. “Jackie Cilley says what she's for.”
He said another key factor considered in making endorsements is “where candidates come from. Jackie Cilley is a middle-class person who grew up in Berlin, worked in a mill, understands first-hand what it means to work and support a family, what it means to meet a family budget, what it means to work hard and put yourself through school, what it means to be able to get a college degree.”
He noted that she teaches business courses at the University of New Hampshire, “so she also understands how to make a business successful.”
The endorsement will help Cilley's effort to mount a grassroots organization to overcome Hassan's huge lead in fund-raising. As of June 20, Hassan had raised $690,827, while Cilley had raised $127,797.
“Our guys work, and it's not a 'name-only' endorsement,” said Lang.
The endorsement came just two days after Cilley was backed by the New England Police Benevolent Association.
She also has the backing of the State Employees Association/SEIU Local 1984, the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Local 3, the New Hampshire Association of Letter Carriers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals 490 and 2320.
Hassan has won the support of the Teamsters Local 633, the Communications Workers of America Local 1400, Carpenters Local 118, Iron Workers Local 7, UFCW Locals 1445 and 791, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Council 35 and the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 6.
Lang said it is not automatic that the PPFNH endorses Democrats in general elections. He said the union backed Republican Craig Benson over Democrat Mark Fernald in the 2002 gubernatorial election as well as Judd Gregg in his bids for the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, Sen. Kelly Ayotte in her Republican primary win in 2010 and state Sen. Jeb Bradley in a general election.
“We are truly a bipartisan organization,” Lang said. “We work very hard and we vet through the candidates.”
But he said that while Cilley and Hassan have addressed union delegate meetings, Republican candidates for governor Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith have not asked to speak to the delegates. As a result, he said, “There is no recommendation at this time on the Republican side.”