Police back Republican candidates in U.S. midterms, even those at Jan. 6 riot

NEW YORK, Nov 3 (Reuters) – Wisconsin’s Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed several Democratic candidates in past elections. But this year, in each of the 13 races weighed, the union decided Republicans would champion stronger law enforcement.

That’s the case even in the competitive US House of Representatives race, where Democrat Brad Pfaff has repeatedly attacked his rival, Republican Derrick Van Orden, for attending a pro-Trump rally on January 6, 2021 at the US Capitol.

More than 100 police officers were injured in the storming of the Capitol that day. But despite running ads highlighting Van Orden’s presence at the rally, Democrats failed to win the support of the state police union.

Van Orden seems more inclined to speak on behalf of police, said Ryan Winddorf, president of the Wisconsin branch of the FOP, the state’s largest police union.

Reuters spoke to nine police unions and trade associations in the United States ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections, all six of which said their members supported more right-wing candidates than in previous elections. The group said Republicans have given greater support to police after the 2020 protests over police killings of Black people.

The shift to the right held true even in races where the Republican candidate attended a Jan. 6 rally. More than a dozen candidates who have publicly admitted to attending the event — none of whom have been charged with a crime — are running for U.S. Congress, statehouse and statewide offices.

Six of those candidates received police support, a Reuters review found. In interviews, union representatives said they felt comfortable supporting them because there was no evidence they broke the law or supported the ongoing violence.

Democratic calls for police reform after the 2020 protests, on the other hand, have too often shown that all officers are inadequate, said Andrea Edmiston, spokeswoman for the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), which represents about 241,000 officers around the United States. United States.

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“We don’t judge people who think there should be police reform,” Edmiston said. “But you’re going to work with law enforcement, are you going to support law enforcement?”

In the 2018 midterm elections, NAPO made endorsements in 11 races across the state, with five Democrats receiving the group’s endorsement. This year, none of the 20 association endorsements went to Democrats.

In a tight race like that between Van Orden and Pfaff, experts say, a police union endorsement could potentially sway the outcome by bolstering the candidate’s claim to be tougher on crime than his opponent.

Polls have shown that while the economy remains their top worry, American voters are more concerned about crime. They trust Republicans over Democrats 36% to 26% on the issue, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Union support also helps remove the stigma surrounding the candidate’s presence at the Jan. 6 rally, experts say.

“This is a way of saying, ‘it’s not a big deal that I was there on January 6. Look, even the police think it’s not a big deal,'” said William Jones, a labor historian at the University. Minnesota with expertise in police unions.

A Facebook post from the day showed Van Orden in a restricted area on the Capitol grounds, according to a Daily Beast report that recreated the photo to determine its location. Van Orden had refused to enter the field and said he left when the protest turned into a mob. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Windorf, president of the Wisconsin police union, said there was no evidence that Van Orden had done anything wrong.

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“I think some people associate the presence of one in an event with their participation or even their encouragement,” he said.

NEW CONSIDERATIONS

All police unions and trade associations interviewed by Reuters said the endorsement process is nonpartisan and based on an assessment of which candidate will best represent law enforcement interests.

The North Carolina Sheriff Police Alliance added a new requirement for candidates seeking endorsement this year: proof that they called the movement “defund the police” which has become a rallying cry for some on the left who are calling for law enforcement reform after the 2020 protests.

While Democrats across the state have sought to distance themselves from the movement, none in North Carolina have provided enough evidence that they have embraced it, said Rickey Padgett, the group’s state secretary.

In the state’s competitive 1st congressional district, the alliance backed Republican Sandy Smith, a businessman who tweeted a photo from his trip to the Capitol on Jan. 6 with the hashtag #FightFor Trump, over Democrat Don Davis, an Air Force veteran and six . – state senator term.

Smith impressed the group as a candidate who will uphold the law and protect law enforcement personnel from unjust persecution, Padgett said.

“I don’t agree with anything that happened on January 6 in any way, but I’m a person who likes to deal with the facts,” he said, noting there was no evidence that Smith did anything illegal at the event.

When the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association was also looking for the best candidate to protect the rights of law enforcement officers, they settled on Davis.

In the state legislative race, however, they endorsed a Republican candidate who posted on Facebook that he was gassed several times at a Capitol rally and was “at the entrance when they broke down the door,” according to local news reports.

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The president of the group, David Rose, said it did not discuss attendance on January 6 during the endorsement process.

Develop polarization

Police officers have always tended to be conservative, but the polarization of American politics in recent years has hardened again, said Ron DeLord, a former police officer and public safety union expert.

“If it was a protest on the left charging the Capitol, they would all be there (attacking) politicians who support it,” said DeLord, who previously spent 30 years leading the Texas Joint Law Enforcement Association, our state’s largest police labor organization.

Only one police association interviewed by Reuters said the candidate’s presence at the Jan. 6 rally played a role in his endorsement decision.

The Arizona branch of the National Latino Peace Officers Association is supporting Democratic Secretary candidate Adrian Fontes over Republican Mark Finchem, who attended the Jan. 6 rally and which was filmed near the Capitol, according to media reports. Finchem has said he did not engage in any violence.

Ron Gomez, the branch’s advocacy chair, said Finchem’s participation in the rally “absolutely” influenced the group’s decision to support Fontes. Finchem’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Gomez agreed that the “defund the police” movement has alienated many officers from the Democratic Party.

But, he added, “what we’re seeing on the far right is so extreme that it’s just taking away the decision-making process.”

Reporting by Julia Harte Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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