With Part 1 of this story covering the entire forum minus the last five minutes, lets dig right into the controversy that marked the conclusion of Mondayâ€™s forum and went on to engulf the local media in the following days.
What Was Said
For those who have not heard or read it yet, here is the transcript of the most controversial remarks from Sheriff McCarthyâ€™s closing statement:
â€œâ€¦Then the other day I opened his website and heâ€™s got a reference on there to the Oath Keepers.Â The Oath Keepers!Â Itâ€™s a group that affiliated with this (holds up book), but they areÂ the big boys.Â Â These are people on a Patriots list from the National Poverty Law Center, a watch list for extreme radicalism.Â (Timothy) McVeigh died going to his grave saying that he was that kind of patriot.Â This guy that runs the Oath Keepers movement, who says heâ€™s a Constitutionalist, has now come out on his website and said itâ€™s time to arm because we think Obama might win.Â Itâ€™s time to arm, and itâ€™s also time to store food for the war thatâ€™s coming (crowd starts booing).Â This is the kind of garbage youâ€™re going to get if he (points to Charleston) is elected.Â Itâ€™s really about as radical as it gets.â€
Though utterly indefensible and unjustified, there are two factors that should at least be understood when thinking about McCarthyâ€™s attitude and conduct on this night.
I believe it fair to realize that for the last year or so Sheriff McCarthy has been listening to and watching Dan Charleston run for his job by basically saying that his department is a poorly run outfit plagued by low morale that needs whole-sale changes to better serve and protect the people of Polk County.Â I am not for a moment saying that these things are untrue, but I am saying that very few of us, if any, have experienced this situationâ€”and clearly it would be extremely tough and frustrating.Â To continually hear on the radio strong criticism that you are failing in a job you are personally invested in and passionate about is no small thing, and certainly would wear on anybody.Â Secondly, and unknown to me until after the fact, apparently Sheriff McCarthyâ€™s own brother was killed in the Oklahoma City Bombing carried out by Timothy McVeigh.
The Bottom Line
The above information is presented solely to give some context to an allegation and line of logic that is nothing short of disgraceful and bizarreâ€”there is just no getting around that.Â While the whole closing statement was overboard, the last sentence elevated the charge to a different level.
Itâ€™s one thing to raise questions about a quote on Dan Charlestonâ€™s website from some group who you view to be extremist in order to cast doubt about where your opponent is coming fromâ€”some may even define this as â€œhard ballâ€ politics (I would use the word â€œdirtyâ€).Â It is yet another step-up to imply that all this groupsâ€™ beliefs and actions can be attributed to Charleston.Â Rather unfortunately Sheriff McCarthy didnâ€™t even stop here.
Though it was hard to hear in the auditorium at the time due to the crowds audible gasp and objections, the last sentence that McCarthy uttered that night was, â€œAnd this is the kind of garbage you are going to get if he is elected, itâ€™s really about asÂ radical as you can get.â€Â Beyond being baseless, irrational, and recklessâ€”this is legal slander that demands, in the least, a public apology.
Impact On This Race
In my view this stands as the second most bizarre episode in Iowa politics this yearâ€”bested only by Republican Senate candidate Randi Shannonâ€™s break from realityâ€”and will certainly hurt his chances in the November election.Â Besides being a huge public relations misstep, McCarthyâ€™s conduct and slander was a head-scratcher politically, as it runs counter to the broader-themed case he has been making against Charleston from the beginning.
Besides saying that Charleston is wrong on the issues, McCarthyâ€™s general assertion to voters is that he is more professional and well-mannered while Charlestonâ€™s temperament and straight-talking boldness are the wrong traits to have heading the Sheriffâ€™s Department.Â It is beyond ironic that the man making this case, even saying himself during the forum that you canâ€™t â€œbare your soul on every social issueâ€, would himself make a reckless and bizarre allegation by publically â€œbaringâ€ his own outlandish and paranoid beliefs about Dan Charleston.Â It is truly as unbelievable and nonsensical as it is hypocritical.
The fact that these two candidates have opposite beliefs on nearly every issue already presented a clear choice for the citizens of Polk County.Â Â Sheriff McCarthyâ€™s outlandish display in the waning moments of Mondayâ€™s forum have made this pictureâ€™s contrast even sharperâ€¦and made the prospect of him keeping his job far less likely.
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*****