(Updated) Attorney Luis Veira got a boost to his campaign for the Tampa City Council District 7 race on Monday when he received the backing of the Tampa Firefighters AFF Local 754.
But that endorsement is being attacked by some of his opponents, who claim it’s rigged because they never had the opportunity to make their case before the union. However, the head of the union says they shouldn’t have any beef.
“I’m very disappointed,” said retired Tampa police officer Orlando Gudes, who said he intended to speak with union officials later on Tuesday.”As a union worker, working side by side with firefighters for 26 years, and I don’t get the courtesy of an interview?”
The longtime police officer also has an issue with Steve Suarez, the president of the Firefighters union. He’s the cousin of Tampa City Council Chairman Mike Suarez, a supporter of Veira’s. “It makes it seem as if the water isn’t clean,” Gudes said about the endorsement.
Other candidates also expressed their unhappiness with how the Viera endorsement went down.
“Our first responders are an essential piece of the fabric of our community and in City Hall, I will be an ardent supporter of theirs,” said Gene Siudut. “I certainly would have appreciated the opportunity to speak with the leaders of IAFF Local 754 and am disappointed the opportunity was not offered.”
“I wasn’t invited. I think that was a prearranged thing,” said Jim Davison, who said that he has a union background as well.
“I would have loved to have the opportunity to speak to the fire union, but they make their own decisions,” said Cyril Spiro.
Veira said Tuesday afternoon that he has a “longstanding relationship” with the members of Local 754 on a personal level, as well as with his autism foundation, and had asked for their support in the race.
“It’s an endorsement that we’re thrilled to have,” he said.
On Wednesday, Steve Suarez told SPB that the main reason the union is backing Veira is because he was the only one who asked.
“We do not seek candidaes, candidates seek us,” he said. “We have never reached out that I can think of in the last 20 years, and we continue to stay just as we are.”
Suarez says that his union has had a relationship with Veira for the past seven years, and knows him well. And he dismissed the criticisms of the other candidates, in particular Gudes.
“I don’t know how he can have a problem with me, because I don’t even know who he is,” he said.
He added that there are ten board members who decide on who the union will back in a race, and the vote was unanimous for Veira.
When contacted on Wednesday upon hearing Suarez’s remarks, Gudes says he wasn’t interested in discussing the issue further.