The 2014 political shindig has kicked off with yard signs sprouting faster than cottonwood seedlings. The sheriff’s race will be a centerpiece on the June 10 primary election ballot. To help voters sort things out, tonight the Chamber of Commerce is holding a Candidates’ Night at the Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall at 6 p.m. The first hour will feature the candidates for sheriff. It will be broadcast on the Internet via acctv.org and on Channel 193.
Incumbent Kenny Furlong is being challenged by two of his employees — Daniel Gonzales and Don Gibson. Lorne Houle is also on the ballot. The top two vote getters will head to the general election in November unless one candidate receives 51 percent of the vote in the primary.
In the old West, being sheriff was straightforward. Think John Wayne. Bad guys, good guys. Stand tall. Use your spurs, sidekicks, swagger, shiny badge and six-shooter. After watching the compelling and repelling docudrama “Chicagoland,” which provides fish-eye views of the crime and culture of Chicago through the lens of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his police chief, among others, I have a new appreciation for the complexities of twenty-first century law enforcement.
No 19th century lawman could imagine the nightmare of leading the law enforcement response to horrific incidents, even at our schools, which are now (sadly) commonplace. In today’s world, an effective sheriff needs to have administrative, management, budgeting and leadership skills matching his knowledge of the law; public relations proficiency; gang intervention chops. Oh yes, and fight crime like a superhero.
In most political campaigns, challengers articulate their views and vision, and also criticize the incumbent opponent. In fact, going negative is the rule rather than the exception, especially in statewide and national races. However, in our city’s primary race, where Sheriff Furlong is opposed by two of his subordinates, voters need to read between the lines to discern needed reforms based on the challengers’ campaign materials and websites.
I want a sheriff who leads a department where “protect and serve” and “justice for all” aren’t just slogans. I would support a sheriff who communicates and field checks his staff to make sure that department policies are carried out consistently and without favoritism by officers and volunteers. Equal treatment and respect for the driver of the Mercedes and the driver of a beater truck should be the rule, not the exception.
The sheriff’s race is non-partisan; every voter can participate. Early voting starts May 24. Check the City election website for the early voting schedule and sample ballot.
Come January, will there be a new sheriff in town? The answer to that question begins on June 10 and depends on the informed participation of all registered voters regardless of party.
Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.