This is the second post in a series I’m doing on possible Voter Intimidation at the March 24th General Assembly of the El Paso County Republican Party. My previous post concerned the alleged vile comments made by the El Paso County Sheriff regarding Disabled American Veterans.
He reportedly chastised a delegate at the Assembly for supporting me, a “(expletive) cripple,” because of my disabled veteran status. Much more important than any personal insult he may hurl at me is the fact that he would hold such contempt for those who honorably defended our freedoms.
We live in a community of military heroes in El Paso County, hundreds of thousands of them. They deserve our support, not the scorn of an elected official.
For my response, read: Voter Intimidation and Offensive, Anti-Veteran Statement by El Paso County Sheriff?
This post today is about another aspect of Voter Intimidation at the Assembly: The Gauntlets.
Is It Really 2018?
I witnessed a surreal scene that seemed to involve time travel back to the ugly voter suppression era in American history. But instead of white, racist Democrats disenfranchising the voting and civil rights of African-Americans, in this case, so-called Republicans intimidated and harassed my supporters.
Republicans usually have been the champions, and not the suppressors, of civil rights. The Democrat Party owns the history of civil and voting rights disenfranchisement, and the tactics of violence or the suggestion of it as a form of intimidation come straight from the Democrat Party Playbook. That it could happen in 2018 — at a REPUBLICAN voting event — should send chills down everyone’s spine.
At the El Paso County GOP Assembly, the intent among the incumbent’s supporters appeared to be to suppress the vote of those who would dare mark their ballot for me instead of the incumbent. If his supporters could succeed in peeling off just enough of my pledged delegates, then they could help ensure victory at the assembly and not face the challenge of a risky primary.
While they may have succeeded in intimidating a few voters away (more about that in a future post – genuine, serious civil rights crimes occurred, in my judgment) their efforts failed in the aggregate. We secured 35% of the delegate vote, more than the minimum 30% necessary to earn placement on the primary ballot.
There were two ‘Gauntlets’ of supporters for the incumbent Sheriff that appeared more like the Teamsters on strike, likely meant to intimidate voters as they arrived. One Gauntlet was outside the Assembly, and the other was inside.
Outside: Between the parking lot and the entrance to the event center were several incumbent supporters with poles, perhaps 10 ft long, to which were attached two or three campaign signs. We received reports of harassment of people they spotted wearing either my campaign t-shirt or buttons. Some of my own committee members were subjected to degrading comments and harassment.
Inside: Just in case a delegate managed to slip past the outside ‘picket line,’ they were ‘greeted’ by a smaller but similar group of incumbent supporters at the top of the stairs leading to the hallway where our campaign tables were located. Like the outside group, those inside carried similar poles with multiple signs, and they jeered my supporters as they passed by.
Not to be outdone, the incumbent had roving groups of supporters walking the event center, carrying the same big sticks with signs throughout the crowd of delegates. Inside the Assembly hall where the votes were cast, bands of incumbent supporters ringed the auditorium. They frequently pounded the sticks on the floor for the noise effect.
I’m all about signs, but this was bizarre. No other candidate, in any other race, even came close to this spectacle.
Observations: I don’t know who advised the incumbent that this was a winning idea. I lost count of the number of delegates whom I had never met before who commented that the heavy-handed appearance of these supporters soured them to the incumbent. Some of the words they used to describe them were, “scary,” “intimidating,” “rude,” “in-your-face,” “angry,” “pushy,” and “ugly.”
The incumbent’s presumed efforts to frighten people away from supporting me actually inspired many to vote FOR me.
Stories of the incumbent Sheriff’s alleged temper, bullying behavior, foul language, use of intimidation and other forms of coercion in the Sheriff’s Office itself are legendary. That he and his supporters would resort to a similar style at the Assembly should not come as a shock to anyone familiar with his past.
As one delegate commented to me, “If this is how this guy carries himself as Sheriff, then we don’t need him.”
Do you recall the images of the Black Panthers sporting billy clubs outside a Philadelphia polling station in 2008? They would shout racial slurs at white voters who dared to enter to cast a vote, presumably for John McCain vice Barack Obama.
They were charged by the federal government with voter intimidation. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division secured a plea bargain with them, only to have President Obama’s Attorney General nix the agreement at the last minute.
How was the El Paso County Republican Party General Assembly any different? Instead of two people engaging in this sort of thuggish behavior like in the Black Panther case, it was several dozens of the incumbent Sheriff’s supporters. Not just outside, but inside, throughout, and even in the hallowed hall where votes were cast.
Did they succeed in suppressing anyone’s vote? Did they cause anyone to forego their voting rights, disenfranchise their civil rights? Did the incumbent’s supporters commit crimes?
I’ll delve into these questions in a future post.