Norwood wins firefighters' backing

The union representing about 450 Atlanta firefighters has endorsed Councilwoman Mary Norwood for mayor, a major victory for the candidate on the biggest issue thus far of the campaign, public safety.

Atlanta Professional Firefighters Association leader Jim Daws said a committee of union leaders “overwhelmingly” chose Norwood because of her track record of support for more equipment and staff in the city’s Fire Rescue Department.

Norwood said she was thrilled with the endorsement, which will officially be announced Friday.

“The firefighters are so highly regarded in the community that this will help the campaign a great deal,” she said.

Union leaders have been frustrated by several rounds of city budget cuts over the past year that resulted in the closure of a fire station in the West End neighborhood, the elimination of dozens of vacant positions and furloughs that cut firefighter pay by 10 percent.

Norwood’s vote in June against a property tax increase that will pay to end the furloughs did not cost her support among the union, Daws said.

“When someone votes with you 95 percent of the time, on occasions you have to understand they have to stand their ground as well,” said Daws, a lieutenant in the department.

Two leading mayoral candidates were not happy with the endorsement.

A spokeswoman for City Council President Lisa Borders said several firefighters called the campaign to say they were disappointed by the union’s decision. Borders supported the tax increase to end the furloughs.

“We’re baffled because Lisa has ... been with [the firefighters] at their most important moments,” said the spokeswoman, Liz Flowers.

State Sen. Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta) said in a statement he respects the union’s decision, but maintained his support for the city’s firefighters is “unwavering.”