Monday, November 5, 2012

Bad Candidates and Bad Messages

When we think of the notoriously bad candidates of the 2012 election cycle, a list would certainly include Todd Akin of Missouri, Mark Clayton of Tennessee and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. Akin, of "legitimate rape" comment fame, was arrested a minimum of eight times while protesting at abortion clinics during the 80s. In a race against an unpopular Democrat, Akin blew his chance at winning the seat and the Republicans having a shot at control of the Senate. Clayton, a floor installer by day and conspiracy theorist at night, believes he doesn't have to campaign for the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat because Jesus didn't have a campaign staff. He raised $500 against Senator Corker and that $500 may only buy him his own vote. Mourdock fell into the same message disaster as Akin, commenting that rape is something God intended. Mourdock unseated Dick Lugar in the primary and will now hand over the seat to the Democrats on election day.

What each bad candidate in the 2012 election cycle has in common is that they fell into the bad message trap. If they had stayed on message and avoided the damaging messages altogether, they would certainly be in better shape.

Idaho is no stranger to this bad candidate/bad message pitfall. Remember Cynthia Clinkingbeard who came out of nowhere to challenge Jimmy Farris in the Democratic primary for the second congressional district seat? Clearly being arrested in Staples for pulling a gun and then pleading guilty to the offense were not on message. To be honest, it's hard to say with Clinkingbeard if there ever was a message. On a lesser scale, there are a few candidates that seem to be damaging their chances with the messages they've chosen throughout the campaign and, in some cases, earlier in their careers.

Let's start with Brent Crane. Brent Crane is running for re-election to the Idaho House in district 13. Crane, who had little visibility on the ground in Nampa, may have suddenly felt some pressure when his opponent personally knocked on hundreds of doors and had signs going up all over the district. Surely thinking his family name would be enough, that and his hard-right credentials gained from sponsoring the ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Let's remember that Crane is the very man who said that God has the "ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.” Meaning the act of rape or incest that results in a pregnancy. Nobody seems to be talking about his. Voters have a short memory.

But is Brent Crane making abortion his message this election? Of course not. What are the issues Crane wants voters to know about? Taxes, gay marriage, gun rights and union membership. Yes, that scary issue of gay marriage that the Idaho voters decided on in 2006. On his hastily prepared mailer, perhaps sent suddenly (obvious by the lack of editing and design) due to the confident campaign of his opponent, Crane notes that his opponent, Clayton Trehal, "will not vote to lower taxes." How can that be true? Has he had the chance to vote on any tax measures? Nope. Has he said he will not lower taxes ever? Nope. Crane says that Trehal refused to answer where he stands on gun rights, but that the NRA has given Crane an 'A' rating. This matters how? Has there been a sudden push in the Idaho Legislature to control guns. Of course not. The final issue Crane raises is that of union membership. Crane points out that he has never been a member of a labor union and his opponent has. Trehal is an educator. Is it really a surprise that he has been a member of a union? When did being a member of a union become a scarlet letter? Does Trehal's union membership hurt the district? There were former union members in the legislature when the Luna Laws passed and it didn't make a bit of difference. Crane is attempting to tie his opponent to those scary, thuggish unions that are against the Luna laws and his message falls flat. Crane says that "Nampa does not need a 'moderate' democrat representing them in Boise." Neither do they need a representative who can't properly capitalize anything on his mailer.

Greg Romriell is running for the Idaho Senate is district 29, the seat previously held by Diane Bilyeu. Romriell has centered his campaign on the message of integrity. An interesting message for a candidate to plaster on his campaign literature and an effective one for most candidates who are running against a candidate with integrity issues. However, Romriell's opponent, Rep. Roy Lacey is as honest as they come. The candidate in this race with questionable integrity is Romriell himself. 

Think back to the gubernatorial race of 2006. In the GOP primary, one of Butch Otter's opponents was a man named Dan Adamson. Adamson made a name for himself in the campaign by promising a taco to any Idahoan who took a picture of their ballot as they were presumably marking it for Adamson. Turns out this promise in itself wasn't illegal. Adamson then spent nearly his entire campaign warchest on billboards throughout the state that stayed up long after the election. Who funded these billboards? None other than Greg Romriell and his brother Dwight. They put their money and their southern Idaho clout behind Adamson. The Romriell family is one of the influential players in the Pocatello area and had their friends, family and fellow Mormons throwing their support behind Adamson. 

Why does a failed gubernatorial race matter? It matters because of the relationship between Romriell and Adamson. These two men don't portray integrity. Dating back to at least 2002, Romriell, his brother Dwight and Adamson were involved in various business dealings. Dwight Romriell and Adamson purchased property in a Chubbuck subdivision and planned to convert it into an assisted living facility. Adamson acquired or started a number of such facilities in the early 2000s. When the homeowner's association refused the request of Adamson and Romriell to convert a single family home for this purpose, the two men went ahead with the plan and began renovation. When the homeowner's association took the two men to court, instead of admitting they were in the wrong, the two men then filed countersuits naming each member of the association. Adamson and Romriell were in the wrong and lost the case. This wasn't the first time that Adamson had gone to court and lost.

Had they gone ahead with the project, chances are good that, like Adamson's other facilities, the home would have been repeatedly cited by the state for poor practices. What Greg Romriell's relationship was with Adamson's company, Northwest Bec-Corp, is unknown, but what is known is what happened to Adamson. In 2009, Adamson was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for tax evasion. Adamson deducted federal income taxes from his employees wages, but never handed over those funds to the IRS. At least six of Adamson's Idaho assisted living facilities were knowingly delinquent on their property taxes. In addition to his prison term and probation, Adamson was disbarred in Idaho. Here is a man that Romriell had been friends with for decades. Dwight and Greg Romriell, two pillars of the Pocatello community, had gone to church with Dan Adamson, had done business with him and trusted him enough to put their money and name behind him in a run for governor. What does it say about Greg Romriell's judgement of character and his own personal integrity that he would be so deeply entrenched in the dishonest dealings of Dan Adamson?

While Romriell has made the message of his campaign one of integrity, Roy Lacey has proven that he is a man of integrity and the best candidate for the job.

The residents of Canyon County have been inundated by Robert Muse signs. But what many of them don't realize as they see the Robert Muse for Constitutional Sheriff van driving 20 mph up and down the Nampa-Caldwell boulevard is that Robert Muse is not running as a Constitutional candidate in the sense that he is a member of the Constitutional Party, he is not. He is running as an "independent conservative" for the seat of constitutional sheriff.

What is a constitutional sheriff? Tenthers, people who believe that the actions of the federal government are unconstitutional according to the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and others on the right-wing fringe including Posse Comitatus, have caused a rise in constitutional sheriff candidates around the country. These folks believe that the sheriff is the highest constitutional authority in the county and has the authority to prevent federal agents from entering the county to conduct business of a criminal justice nature or otherwise. In other words, they believe that the sheriff is the supreme law of the land and should any federal official enter the county, they immediately come under the jurisdiction of the sheriff.

To be clear, there is no portion of the United States Constitution that gives a county sheriff such power. And the Constitution certainly doesn't give the county sheriff the power to "stop hostile union take over" and "stop urban renewal tax and spend" as Mr. Muse claims he will. The message Muse is employing is one of catch phrases. By talking about unions, political machines, urban renewal, and even to an extent arming the American citizenry, Muse may appeal to the conservative voters of Canyon County.

It is disconcerting to note the number of Muse signs that are popping up. While the Canyon County Sheriff's Office has had some controversy in the past, nothing they have done warrants the kind of support Muse is receiving. To their credit, the Idaho Press-Tribune endorsed Muse's opponent, Kieren Donahue, not once mentioning Muse in doing so. However, they did give Muse an outlet for his ramblings (and very large photo of himself with Sheriff Joe Arpaio).

Muse is not the only candidate for sheriff in Idaho running under the guise of protecting the Constitution and limiting the power of the federal government. Ted Dunlap of Ada County is running under the same banner. Dunlap, if you remember, is the man behind the informed jury flyers that got perennial candidate Rex Rammell arrested for jury tampering.

If you look beyond the hot button topics and really delve into what these men mean by constitutional sheriff, you'll find their message is both suspicious and scary.

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