Council backed GOP incumbent against him in 2008.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s second-term bid has been endorsed by the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council.

What is notable about the endorsement is that the council endorsed Gordon Smith, the two-term Republican incumbent Merkley unseated in their 2008 contest.

But council president Kelly Bach praises Merkley’s record and criticizes Republican rival Monica Wehby, a physician from Portland making her first bid for public office.

While speaker of the Oregon House in 2007, Merkley secured passage of a bill making safety and staffing mandatory subjects for collective bargaining. Merkley also secured a federal grant to save 26 Portland firefighter positions and championed a federal grant program to enable communities to obtain firefighter training and equipment.

Bach also says Wehby’s support of a federal budget even more austere than the one approved in 2011 by the Republican-controlled House, but defeated in the Democratic Senate, would lead to deep cuts in those federal grant programs. Merkley voted against the House GOP budget.

“This election is critical for Oregon and we need Jeff in the Senate fighting for the priorities that matter to all Oregonians,” Bach says.

Bach appeared with Merkley at an event Thursday in Portland. Bach is a captain with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.

Earlier in the week, Merkley won a re-election endorsement from the Oregon Nurses Association.

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