Fire union endorses St. Pete City Council incumbents, including Wengay Newton, brother of union boss

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An endorsement from the St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters, Local 747 is considered a prize in city politics, writes Michael Van Sickler.

The 277-member union can chip in a $500 contribution and can throw fundraisers. More importantly, it provides boots on the ground, with help in walking neighborhoods, putting out signs, working the phones.

So City Council incumbents Steve KornellBill Dudley and Wengay Newton were probably quite happy to get endorsements Friday from the union. Kornell, who wasn’t endorsed by the union when he ran for council in 2009, faces a challenge from Bill Protz. Dudley, who is a darling with firefighters, is running against Brent Hatley. And Newton was endorsed in 2007 by the union when he faced Gershom Faulkner, who he challenging him again this year.

True, the endorsement comes less than a month before the City Council will vote on breaking a stalemate between the union and Mayor Bill Foster and his administration on a new contract. But questions about the contract weren’t asked when the candidates were interviewed, and City Attorney John Wolfe instructed incumbents to avoid addressing the contract at all because it’s an ongoing legal matter.

But for Faulkner, the timing of the endorsement isn’t what’s unfair. It’s that Union president Winthrop Newton was allowed to vote. You see, Wengay Newton is his brother.

Continue reading Van Sickler’s story here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.