I just spent the evening eating a rather tasteless meal at Fratelli’s Italian restaurant in Spring Branch, attending a Harris County Sheriff’s race debate between Carl Pittman and Louis Guthrie, sponsored by the Republican Hispanic Citizens in Action club, founded by Bernadette McLeroy.
This debate was labeled “The Epic Debate of the Year”, and “The Debate of the Century”, promoted in an ad that looked more like an old west wanted poster than an advertisement for a Republican debate. Debates being sponsored at Republican clubs are very common; in fact, these two candidates participated in another debate eleven hours earlier in the day, held at the Northwest Pachyderm Club.
Most clubs, however, go out of their way to ensure that the debates are viewed as being fairly presented for all participating candidates, as supporters of all the candidates are oftentimes in attendance, and the Republican clubs want to increase their membership by appealing to ALL Republicans, and they know if they are perceived as being unfair to one candidate, they risk alienating any potential new club members from that candidate’s group of supporters. I have been to MANY Republican club debates, but none like this one.
After a rousing speech from Ted Cruz’s dad, and a couple of other speeches from aspiring candidates, the wall to wall crowd was treated to a series of questions given to each candidate, supposedly originating from the audience. We were also promised to expect four “mystery” questions from Bernadette, at the end of the evening, and thus the debate began.
Both Carl and Louis gave good answers to these first eight questions, neither one receiving or giving any knock out punches. After all, Bernadette had promised that she was going to have a fair debate, and didn’t want any negativity or mudslinging from either of these candidates. So she said prior to the debate, but we all knew better than that, didn’t we? We all knew that Bernadette has been a very vocal supporter of Louis Guthrie, and would have a hard time conducting an impartial debate.
Please remember that this is the same group that conducted a “straw poll” earlier this year, where, instead of asking those in attendance to cast a fair and impartial record of their opinion of the candidates involved in the “straw poll”, this group chose to charge money for the right to cast a vote, thus ensuring that the more a candidate spent, the better the chance they had of “winning” the “straw poll”. Thus the results of this “straw poll” had nothing to do with being a representation of the attendee’s true evaluation of the candidates involved, but merely devolved into a “pay for play” scheme where the candidate that spent the most money won the most votes.
This scam was so easily seen through, that I’m surprised that our candidates would have had anything to do with this con, but sadly, many did. Thus we have a background leading up to tonight’s event.
As the evening drew to a conclusion, the questioning switched from the evening’s moderator to Bernadotte herself, for the last four “mystery” questions.
Bernadette started off with a question, designed to make the audience think that Guthrie had experience supervising a large number of employees. Carl answered her question, that was originally phrased regarding the candidate’s law enforcement career, relating his law enforcement experience coordinating the activities of county-wide representatives of a law enforcement agency for whom he had worked in California
Bernadette, in her words, wasn’t “satisfied” with Carl’s answer, and asked her question differently, a second time, “How many people have you supervised in Harris County, and what type of budget did you oversee in those departments in Harris County?” Carl explained that was not currently supervising anyone in his present position, neither was it his current responsibility to oversee any budgets. He had previously very adequately explained his experience, both as a law enforcement officer, as well as a businessman, responsible in past careers for budgets of tens of millions of dollars. Bernadette sought to discount Carl’s past experience and wanted to focus solely on his experience in Harris County.
Guthrie, of course, was quick to tout his experience as “director” of his “agency” in Liberty County. Please note that Bernadette didn’t ask him the question a second time, but was satisfied with his answer.
If anyone had any doubts about the “fairness” of her questions, just wait until you hear the second question. “What education in college and training certificates do you currently possess, and were you ever asked to be a senior level trainer at the FBI’s national academy in Virginia?”
This question was just too odd, and was most blatantly geared to highlight a claim that Guthrie has made; just how many law enforcement officers have been asked to be a “senior level trainer at the FBI’s national academy in Virginia?” Why would she ask this of Carl?
Carl answered the question, relating his education and law enforcement certification, as well as his private sector business acumen. No, he had never been asked to be a “senior level trainer at the FBI’s national academy in Virginia.”
Guthrie then touted his education and experience, and reluctantly admitted that, surprise, surprise, coincidentally, he had been asked to be a trainer at the FBI national academy, but turned this position down so that he could run for Harris County Constable (an election he soundly lost). Isn’t that amazing, that she would ask a question of BOTH candidates, for which only one of them could claim to be true?
Well, that wasn’t good enough for her, so she continued to ask him to explain the significance and honor of such an invitation “‘what’s the privilege to be asked to be invited to such an academy?”
Guthrie thus was given more time to explain the significance of the request, continuing to aggrandize his career, at all of the attendee’s expense. By this time, even the most clueless of attendees could see through this thinly veiled attempt at promoting Guthrie, at Carl’s expense. But some of the worst was yet to come.
The next question: “Carl, have you ever been responsible for evaluating the other officers in a law enforcement capacity here in Harris County, and have you ever received a below average evaluation?” Carl shared that he had neither evaluated officers in Harris County (but he had in former law enforcement positions), and that he had never ever received anywhere near a low standard service evaluation. Bernadette next asked a similar question to Guthrie, but was careful to broaden the scope of the question to include “Liberty County”. Guthrie answered that his evaluations would have been above average, except for the first one that he received, where he stated that he thought that no one received more than a “middle of the road” evaluation. Furthermore he stated that he had probably evaluated several hundred employees and supervisors.
The next question was “Have you ever coordinated multi agency operations, if so, what did that entail?” Guthrie answered, that he had coordinated state, and federal operations, including illegal gambling, drug smuggling and weapons violations investigations.
Carl replied, as a team leader, he had coordinated many county wide agencies as part of a federal task force, reminding the audience that his jurisdiction at the time was only a few miles north of the US-Mexico border, thus investigation of drug cartels, hell’s angels, and the illegal drug and other criminal activity associated with illegal immigration were commonplace in his experience.
The last and final question was “Would you please describe your job that you’re holding right now in your department, what it curtails(I think she meant “entails”), and the rank that you currently hold, for the years of experience that you have been a sheriff, … I mean, uh, uh, a deputy.”
Carl related the technical details of his current responsibilities, investigation of property and financial embezzlements, subpoenas, including his responsibilities of making entries in the DNA database, that he currently held the position of rank of Deputy.
Guthrie gave the final answer, saying that he was “Director of special crimes and narcotics for the Liberty County Sheriff’s office….” Now that’s funny, since the Liberty county auditor recently told me that he had never heard of such a unit, and was certain that the Liberty County Commissioners had never created such an agency, and that he thought that the boys in the sheriff’s department had made up that name to sound good for the press.
Another odd Guthrie utterance, spoken in conclusion, was that “There were a lot of stark differences between me and my opponent standing up here tonight, some of it you could see, some of it you can’t see.” There is a moment of silence then someone in the audience cried out “Oh My God!” The racial overtone was palpable. Guthrie continued on in a very negative rant contrasting some of the differences between the candidates. This concluded the evening.
It is a shame that this “Republican” club would get away with such blatant partiality and negativity, especially since one of the goals of this club is to promote inclusion of minority communities. The one positive note of the evening, was that to all in attendance, had they had any past doubts about this club’s legitimacy, they saw, first hand, that this club was willing to cut all kinds of corners in promotion of one of their candidates, at the expense of the other candidate and all in attendance.
One could only hope that the good folks associated with this club would demand accountability from their leadership, and demand change if they ever wish to gain the respect they lost tonight in the eyes of the community of Harris County Republicans.