Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle lured a key supporter of a former rival to his camp Friday as he continued to close ranks in his Democratic base. City Councilwoman Jean Stothert, meanwhile, picked up the support of a city labor union.
Both candidates touted their endorsements this week as they work to consolidate backers in the weeks before the May 14 general election.
Former Mayor Mike Fahey, one of the state's leading Democrats, endorsed Suttle after having supported State Sen. Brad Ashford in the primary.
The relationship between Fahey and his successor has had its tense moments. Suttle, for instance, blamed Fahey's administration for Omaha's budget woes, with Suttle saying he hadn't known the depth of the city's fiscal problems until after his election, though he had been on the City Council for four years.
Fahey had said his early support for Ashford was linked to their long friendship and repeated that point Friday.
“My support for Brad Ashford came from a 40-year friendship, and I certainly couldn't have turned my back on that,” Fahey said in a statement distributed by Suttle's campaign.
“But I also said then I'd be happy to support Mayor Suttle when it came to the general, and that's why I am here today.”
Fahey was joined at Suttle's campaign event by former Mayors Mike Boyle and Subby Anzaldo.
Boyle also supported Ashford in the primary, but stood with Suttle and a group of local Democratic officials during a recent party unity event.
Friday's announcement came one day after Stothert's campaign announced support from the labor union that represents roughly 600 city employees.
The City Council's labor negotiating committee, of which Stothert is chairwoman, has begun negotiating with City Employees Local 251 on a renewed labor contract for civilian employees.
Stothert has argued that the city needs to get tougher on negotiating its union contracts.
“We've worked closely with both mayoral candidates over the last four years. It is our belief that Jean Stothert will provide the leadership, management skills and trust that are important to city employees and all of Omaha,” Kevin Brown, the civilian union president, said in a statement issued by Stothert's campaign.
Brown, in an interview, cited “a lot of positive feedback with our members in the last couple of years” about Stothert. He said she has been good at returning calls and emails.
A union endorsement for Stothert might seem a bit unusual. Stothert said it was a product of her campaign's momentum.
“This endorsement is another strong sign that Omahans from all walks of life are uniting behind our campaign to help lead our city in a new direction,” she said in a statement.
At least one prominent union will remain on the sidelines: Sgt. John Wells, head of the city's police labor union, said Friday that the group will not endorse a mayoral candidate.
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