“We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear—fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer.”
—”Extreme Behavior in Aspen,” Hunter S. Thompson, February 3, 2003
Journalist Hunter S. Thompson arrived in Aspen, Colorado in the late 1960’s with a live skunk in his care. Or so the story goes. With Thompson, later to be dubbed the founder of gonzo journalism, the truth depended on your perspective on reality.
** Rip up all city streets with jackhammers and sod the streets at once.
** Change the name Aspen to Fat City. This would prevent greed heads, land rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name ‘Aspen’.
**It will be the general philosophy of the sheriff’s office that no drug worth taking shall be sold for money. “My first act as sheriff will be to install on the sheriff’s lawn a set of stocks to punish dishonest dope dealers.”
**Firing the majority of the conservative county officials and bureaucrats.
As the race was chronicled in Rolling Stone magazine by the candidate, the City of Aspen and his platform gained national media attention. Thompson did make a concession on the drugs issue – he promised that if elected, he would not eat mescaline whilst on duty. With reporters now lurking around town hoping for a few quips from the candidate, Thompson fed the media frenzy by shaving his head bald and referring to the crew-cut, ex-army, Republican incumbent as “My long-haired opponent.”
Now THAT was a race for sheriff worth remembering. The 2010 race for Sheriff of San Diego County does not have a candidate who will be remembered forty years from now. But there’s plenty of fear going around in this year’s race. Guns nuts are up in arms. Illegal aliens are being demonized. And the stench of conspiracy wafts over the contest like a bad day in the wetlands east of Dog Beach.
To hear the charges and countercharges in this race, you’d think that San Diego was in the midst of a tsunami of rape, murder and pillaging. The fact is, though, that crime in our neck of the woods is headed downward. Across the county, the rate of violent crimes — which include homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults — dropped 2 percent from 4.11 per 1,000 residents in 2008 to to 4.03 per 1,000 residents in 2009.
The region’s violent crime rate has trended down for much of the last two decades. The rate of property crimes, which include burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft, fell 18 percent from 26.92 per 1,000 residents in 2008 to 21.97 per 1,000 residents in 2009.
This sheriff’s race is a big deal, we’re told, because there is no incumbent, and San Diego has a history of electing sheriffs for as long as they care to hang around. A long time in office translates into political power, power that can be used to both punish and reward challenges to the status quo. For the past fifteen years that power has been associated with name Bill Kolender.
Last year Sheriff Kolender decided to step down in mid-term. He appointed Bill Gore as his interim replacement and, along with it, passed on his base of support. These backers include District Atty Bonnie Dumanis, three of the five supervisors, practically every county sheriff in Southern California, tons of elected officials including Mayor Jerry Sanders, former mayor Dick Murphy, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, along with ‘community leaders’ like Alan Bersin, Steve Cushman, Chris Van Gorder, and even crime author Joseph Wambaugh.
His long list of endorsers only feeds into the fantasies of local right wing conspiracy buffs, who recall that Gore was in charge of the Seattle FBI office during Ruby Ridge, the now-infamous 1992 siege at the Idaho mountain cabin of Randy Weaver, who had failed to appear in court on weapons charges. During a 12-day standoff with hundreds of federal agents surrounding the cabin, Weaver’s wife was mistakenly shot by an FBI sniper as she held her baby.
When the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Gore and others, they refused to testify about Ruby Ridge before Congress. Gore said he cooperated with investigations by the FBI, the Justice Department and a federal grand jury. But a local Idaho prosecutor was working to indict agents for murder. Those cases were eventually dismissed.
Gore has a long lineage in law enforcement, having served as Assistant Sheriff on the department’s Law Enforcement Services Bureau, and as under sheriff after 32 years with the FBI. His father and older brother were part of the San Diego Police Department and his middle brother was a San Diego County Deputy Sheriff. His wife was one of the first female FBI agents in the United States. And his father was close to Bill Kolender, working with him in the SDPD back in the 1950s.
You might say that Gore is the establishment candidate. But you’d only be half right.
Also running is Jim Duffy, whose late father was former Sheriff John Duffy, who led the department from 1971 to 1991. Following in the footsteps of his late father is a tough act. John Duffy was alternately known during his twenty year tenure at the Sheriff’s post as: a) a micromanager who used green pens and had all the department’s patrol cars painted green and white because green was his favorite color or, b) an underdog, supported by the rank-and-file, who overcame challenges and did a great job
Duffy’s 27 years in law enforcement, and two years as the president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego County also give him a local law enforcement pedigree that can not be ignored. His endorsements include political opposites Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) and Rep. Bob Filner (D) and every law enforcement association in San Diego County. Duffy has the support of the San Diego-Imperial County Labor Council, which does a credible job of getting out the vote, along with much of the rank and file within the Sheriff’s Department.
Jay La Suer
This would be just another milquetoast race of the business establishment vs. labor but for the presence of Jay LaSuer. Calling him the most conservative of the three sheriff’s candidates is an understatement. His base of support includes zonie Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, whose campaign against immigrants has made him the darling of the far right and former Congressman Tom Tancredo. Then there are the east county gun enthusiasts who are worried about losing their concealed weapon permits.
La Suer’s supporters have managed to get the National Rifle Association to take time out from its important work defending the rights of persons on the TSA’s “No Fly List” to buy guns to urge its members to vote against Gore, claiming that the incumbent “is anti-gun and continues to trample on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding San Diego County residents.”
This charge stems from a lawsuit filed earlier this year by a disgruntled citizen who was denied a concealed weapons permit to carry a weapon in his mobile home as he traveled around the country. Claiming that law enforcement officers encouraged him to carry a firearm for protection, he did manage to obtain three conceal weapon permits in the states of Connecticut, Florida and Utah. His application for a local permit was denied by San Diego because of a requirement that requires an applicant to prove that they are “a specific target in contrast to a random target” that distinguishes the person from the general population. Shocking! I tell you, shocking!
LaSuer’s platform also includes the construction of tent cities to house the numerous prisoners that his reign of law and order will accrue, along with strict limits on what television shows prisoners in brick and mortar lock-ups will be able to view:
“They should be allowed to watch only selected programs. For example they may be allowed to watch the news, the weather channel, the discovery channel and perhaps the Disney channel.”
Having three candidates in the race for Sheriff with motivated constituencies virtually insures that no candidate will garner enough votes in the primary to pass the 50% threshold, making a November run-off between the top two vote getters likely. A recent poll shows Gore with 26% of likely voters, LaSuer with 16%, Duffy with 15%, and the largest block of voters still in the “undecided” category.