Much of the story from Monday nightâ€™s forum between current Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy and Sheriff Candidate Dan Charleston occurred in the final minutes where, by any reasonable standard, Bill McCarthy crossed the line from aggressively campaigning to keep his jobâ€”to down-right personal slander.Â We will get to that in due time, but first here is a quick re-cap of the event and the many defining differences between these two men that are at the core of this simmering race.
The forum was held in the North High School auditorium, where a large crowd left only the back few rows of seats empty, and was put on by a consortium of neighborhood groups called the â€œDes Moines Neighborsâ€.Â The forum was very well run and to say interest in this Sheriffs race around Polk County is high would be an understatementâ€”I have attended several high-profile legislative forums and debates which had a fraction of the crowd that Mondayâ€™s event had.
The mood of the audience and the two candidates onstage throughout the evening could be best described as â€œtenseâ€â€”before exploding in the final minutes during Sheriff McCarthyâ€™s  closing statement.Â While Dan Charleston  kept his tone firm and relatively respectful, Bill McCarthy was repeatedly and openly condescending, dismissive, and at times insulting.Â While obviously there is no love lost between the two, McCarthyâ€™s conduct and attitude from the beginning stood out as being unprofessional and wholly unnecessary.Â Now that the scene is set and you have an idea of the atmosphereâ€”letâ€™s move onto the substance.
These two candidates see eye-to eye on very little, and the disagreements fit into two clear categoriesâ€”1) internal department policy, and 2) what essentially amounts to political issues.
The internal department issues at hand concern promotion practices, the size and distribution of the force, and the additional $5 charge that Sheriff McCarthy has added on to the cost of receiving gun permits.Â Since these issues are mainly known only to department employees and their friends and family we will not cover them in detail.Â A brief summation is that Dan Charleston strongly believes the department is too top-heavy, that the promotion policy is being dealt with unfairly, and that the additional charge on gun permits should be removed.Â In terms of the departmentâ€™s staff allocation, Charleston has made it clear he would remove several supervisory positions and replace them with more patrols and more â€œboots on the groundâ€.Â Obviously, since he is in charge of the department currently, McCarthy largely supports these things as they are.
The Political Issues
Lacking theÂ time to reasonably go into each in detail, what follows is a surface level look–largely in their own word–at the top three hot-button issues the two candidates sparredÂ over on this evening.
1) Illegal Immigration
Sheriff McCarthy â€“ After being coy by saying he would â€œlike to see some changesâ€ in this area, though failing to mention any, he summarized his position by saying, â€œLocal law enforcement, despite the lies you hear on the radio month after month, are not empowered to arrest people who are undocumentedâ€”or what you would call â€œillegalâ€.â€Â He then went on to make the case that if illegal aliens are arrested we would only â€œfill our jailsâ€.
Dan Charlestonâ€”Clearly Charleston would be tougher on enforcement and he referenced the oath he took both in the military and in the Sheriffâ€™s Department to â€œprotect and serveâ€.Â He went on to say, â€œWhen the coyotes bring these guys over here in two days for $1,500 it doesnâ€™t mean we turn a blind eye to it and let everything they want to do with the cartels and the gangs we have right here in Des Moines just happen.Â It means you have a duty to protect and serve the citizens you were elected by.â€
2)Â Traffic Cameras
Sheriff McCarthyâ€”Supports both the concept and the expansion of Automated Traffic Enforcement, and made the point that it costs the department nothing up front for the companies to come in and set the systems up.Â He called the Constitutional arguments against them misleading and summarized his position by saying, â€œI want to give these (the cameras) a shot, and I hope they save some lives.â€
Dan Charlestonâ€”Strongly opposes the concept and practice mainly on 6th Amendment â€œface your accuserâ€ grounds, and also for the fact he believes it is a ploy to generate more revenue.Â He concluded his answer with, â€œIf it was a safety issue why do they let you go 11 mph over the speed limit?…Iâ€™m sure people would rather have a patrolman out there than a camera taking pictures of them.â€
3)Â Stand Your Ground
Sheriff McCarthyâ€”Does not support the legislation largely because it takes discretion away from the officers and gives it to the County Attorney.Â He then added, â€œItâ€™s not good legislation, on the surface it looks goodâ€¦but letâ€™s not give people a free hand to be violent and mean-spirited to others.â€
Dan Charleston–Â When asked,Â “Would you support Stand Your Ground legislation?”, Charleston simply answered, “Yes I would.”
*****To read more from Dan Charleston checkout his “3 Questions with The Conservative Reader:Iowa ” from earlier this year*****