Press "Enter" to skip to content

Vendor snafu causes uproar in Rep. Hill’s race

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – In a mailer sent out to prospective voters in the 108th House District, six firefighters posed for a photo stating their support for Rep. Justin Hill. However, the firefighters had their faces blurred and said they feared retribution from “union bosses.”

But closer inspection of the photo appears to have been lifted from this news article on the National Guard’s website about a group of Wisconsin firefighters who saved a woman’s life with CPR on a landed plane in June. The hand positioning and poses used by the fire fighters in each photo are identical.

The Hill campaign says the mailer was done by Survey St. Louis, and they are the ones responsible for the photo decision. However, Survey St. Louis notes that because the picture is from a government website it cannot be copyrighted.* The campaign says that the photo in question is symbolic of the many firefighters in the district who do support Hill, but are concerned with speaking out due to fear of retribution from union leaders.

The firefighters pictured are members of the 115th Fighter Wing of the Wisconsin National Guard.   The picture made some of the rounds on social media, co-opting the hashtag #CrookedHill, usually used to disparage Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as a corrupt politician. Opponents of Hill used the opportunity to poke some fun at the representative.


Hill, a freshman House member, is currently locked in a primary battle with O’Fallon City Councilman Jeff Schwentker, who has been a machinist for roughly three decades. Schwentker has received donations from several union groups including the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters, and he has been endorsed by the Missouri AFL-CIO.

Schwentker said that while he respected Hill as a person, he felt that this error fit into the tone of Hill’s campaign.

“I… understand that people make mistakes,” Schwentker said when asked for comment. “However, I’m throughly disappointed that a current elected official could continue to use ‘fear’ as a main theme for his campaign and, then on top of that, approve the use of a stolen copyrighted photograph of first responders… There are many issues and topics that politicians don’t agree on, and decisions that were made, however I choose to have discussions rather then accusations.

“I hope that whatever happens tomorrow, that we can put this behind us, and work together on bettering our communities.”

The district is predominantly Republican, but St. Charles County is also where union-friendly Republicans, like Rep. Anne Zerr and outgoing Rep. Ron Hicks, can perform well.

The Missouri Times has officially listed the race as a “Lean Hill,” but it is also listed as one of the “15 Hottest Primaries in the State.”

Updated – 4:35 p.m.: Added Schwentker’s comment.

*Updated – 12:27 p.m., Aug. 3: Noted that the picture was from a government website and thus could not be copyrighted.