It was a busy week for the candidates left in the Harris County Republican Party runoff, Louis Guthrie and Carl Pittman. And me! They participated in three different forums/interviews and I was present at each one. I’m going to have to make this post a two parter – one a report on the forums and the second one….well, it won’t be pretty but it will possibly help you decide on a candidate.
Greater Houston Pachyderm Club
The first forum was held at the weekly luncheon meeting of the Greater Houston Pachyderm Club on Tuesday, 6/19. There was a decent group on hand including HCRP Chair Jared Woodfill – I know, I know, most of us haven’t seen him anywhere but on television the past few months but he was there in the flesh (look in the bottom corner of this pic!).
Mr. Guthrie started off by introducing himself, talking about the various levels of experience he had during his time at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), and how the budget was going to be a major issue at the office because current Sheriff Adrian Garcia is a big spender.
Mr. Pittman then introduced himself as a constitutional protector and saying that defeating Obama was the most important job for Republicans this fall. He stated that he has many years of experience as a peace officer and then BAM! He set the tone for the forum and the week by charging that Mr. Guthrie’s campaign coordinator had accused him of murder!
I got this sick feeling in my stomach because now I have to address the allegations of spousal abuse, an issue I avoided during the primary by well, avoiding talking about Mr. Pittman, hoping against hope that Mr. Pittman wouldn’t make the runoff. But he did and since he decided to bring it up, we’re going to have to discuss it. But I’ll save that for part two and try to talk about these three events as if that wasn’t clouding them all.
After the two men finished the introductions, it was time for questions from the attendees. I think most were still in shock at Mr. Pittman’s charge but the questions were asked anyway. I don’t recall all of them and this isn’t a complete recap anyway but the questions included staggered dockets to make inmate transfers and court proceedings more efficient (both men favored), is the budget big enough (yes Pittman, no Guthrie), what effect will Mike Anderson’s policy of throwing everyone in jail have on the budget (heh, wonder who asked that one?), what can be done about the mental health inmates (Guthrie – better evaluation, Pittman same), color tv, air conditioning, etc (Pittman – jail needs to be not friendly, Guthrie – under court order to provide those conditions).
Nothing much out of the ordinary until a question was asked if either man had ever been investigated by internal affairs. Mr. Guthrie said yes and discussed the car wash incident that resulted in his termination. Mr. Pittman acknowledged that he was investigated by IAD based on an anonymous complaint that he abused his wife and said that he would never, ever do that. He stated that the investigation determined that he had failed a polygraph test and everyone knows that polygraphs are not admissible in court because they are not reliable. He then went on to say that Mr. Guthrie had been reprimanded at least three times and had been suspended in addition to the one car wash incident. I will elaborate on all of these investigations in the next post.
Clear Lake Area Republicans / Clear Lake Tea Party Job Interview
The second forum was also Tuesday, this time in the evening. It was a joint production of the Clear Lake Area Republicans and the Clear Lake Tea Party. The format was the “job interview” type that the Clear Lake Tea Party has used a couple of times. This format does not allow the candidates to face off against each other, questioning each candidate separately. Each candidate was asked 10 questions – 9 of them the same, the 10th targeted specifically to the candidate being questioned.
Mr. Pittman made a strategic error when he won the coin toss and elected to go last. That makes sense in a traditional debate but in the job interview format, the first person that goes automatically becomes the standard by which subsequent candidates are judged. Being first, Mr. Guthrie had a chance to pull the crowd with him and I think it paid off in the results of an unannounced straw poll, which Mr. Guthrie won easily, 57-23.
Because the candidates did not square off, it was a much more cordial affair, with none of the tension that the earlier meeting had. About the only attempt at contrast came in Mr. Guthrie’s closing argument in which he pointed out that Mr. Pittman had given $500 to Adrian Garcia in 2008.
As for the actual questions, the only one with a stark difference between the two was question 7, which concerned racial profiling. Mr. Guthrie says that racial profiling is done every day and is a good tool for law enforcement despite the complaints of politically correct people. Mr. Pittman said that he didn’t think the practice was widespread in the department but that if he found out that someone was using racial profiling, he would discipline them.
The “customized” question for Mr. Guthrie was about whether or not the drug war in winnable. Mr. Guthrie thinks that it is winnable but tactics must be changed. He also said that marijuana was a gateway drug and that it should continue to remain illegal.
Mr. Pittman’s “customized” question was about his contention that the HCSO should use the tactics of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and put prisoners in tents. Mr. Pittman acknowledge that he could not implement the same type of portable detention facilities because the county jail is under court order to provide a certain environment but he thinks that we need to work with the legislature to change the law to enable “tent cities”.
Fortunately, the folks at CLAR and the CLTP have put the entire set of interviews online so that you can watch them and perhaps help you make your decision.
Downtown Pachyderm Club
The third forum of the week was held during the regular Thursday lunch meeting of the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club on 6/21. This meeting was rowdy and Randy Kubosh lost control and had to fight to get it back. Each candidate was given an opportunity to make an opening statement , answer questions from the crowd, and then give a closing statement.
Mr. Pittman started off by talking about his combat leadership experience, said that Adrian Garcia was a runaway spender, talked about his plan to implement zero based budgeting, the necessity to put more deputies on patrol, and stated his three priorities were (1) increasing patrol units, (2) properly staffing the investigative unit, and (3) reorganize the jail. And then he spent several minutes talking about Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment, the lies and personal attacks in the race, people should focus on due process in our justice system and not allegations, there wasn’t much Christian behavior being shown, and that people should tell the whole story and not just half.
Mr. Guthrie emphasized his vision, experience, reliability, and relationships. He has extensive knowledge of the department because of the number of years he spent with it and the varied positions he held. He stressed that he has been a Republican all his life, has helped other Republicans in their campaigns, has run as a Republican, and mentioned several Republican state legislators that have endorsed him. He talked about Sheriff Garcia’s poor decision making and over-spending, telling us that at one time Sheriff Garcia had 5 people answering phones just for him.
Then the questions started and so did the fireworks. For substance, the best argument was about Mr. Pittman’s plan to put deputies at the jail on 12 hour shifts to reduce overtime. Mr. Guthrie doesn’t think it is a good idea because jail shifts are known for boredom in only eight hours and it would increase the staff’s chances of making a mistake. He then noted that the longer hours would be hard on families and would increase turnover. He also mentioned that it would prevent deputies from working extra jobs. Mr. Pittman stated that it isn’t a perfect world and that his priority was public safety. If that means that some deputies would have to sacrifice their extra jobs, so be it. He also pointed out that jailers today are often forced to work double shifts, 16 hours day.
The fireworks started when someone who appeared to be a Guthrie supporter asked each man to verify that the various internal affairs reports on each were authentic. Mr. Guthrie said that they were. Mr. Pittman said that one of them was, that it was about 40 pages long, and concluded with his reprimand for failing a polygraph test. The same person then asked him if the termination recommendation under Sheriff Tommy Thomas was authentic and Mr. Pittman stated that he had never seen it and was obviously not terminated. The crowd started to get out of control at this point.
When Betty Avery (Precinct 398 Chair) asked if either candidate had given money to a Democrat, the shouts of get back to qualifications increased. In fact, the woman sitting next to me started shouting that the question wasn’t legitimate because it didn’t matter, to which I said nonsense, this is a Republican primary, it is very relevant and legitimate to ask about it. My mistake, as she turned her hostility towards me. Obviously, Mr. Pittman had to answer yes and Mr. Guthrie once again stated that he has never given money to or supported a Democrat.
Things really got testy when Michael Kubosh, the oldest of the politically active Kubosh brothers, addressed a question to Mr. Pittman about two of his supporters who use a blog to attach other candidates. Mr. Pittman seemed upset by the question, stating that he had no control over that blog, that it was a free country, and furthermore, other bloggers are using half-truths and lies about him. He repeated his charge that Mr. Guthrie’s campaign coordinator had accused him of murder, referencing a Houston Press blogpost by Craig Malisow. I guess Mr. Guthrie finally got tired of this accusation because when it was his turn, he asked his real campaign coordinator, Sara Kinney, if she had ever said that, and she stood up and said, no, I’ve never said that. Of course, Mr. Pittman most likely knew that and is simply trying to deflect attention away from some allegations that will shock you. But I’ll go into all of that in part two because this one is way too long as it is.
I do want to address Candace Schwager , the person that Mr. Pittman repeatedly said was Mr. Guthrie’s campaign coordinator. I asked Mr. Guthrie who she was and what was her relationship with the campaign, if any. It turns out that Mr. Guthrie went to high school with Mrs. Schwager. He told me that he hadn’t spoken to her in about 20 years before last year. She called him up after finding out that he was running for sheriff, told him that she was now an attorney, and asked if she could help with the campaign. Who wouldn’t accept free help from an old acquaintance, especially an attorney? She did have a louisguthrie.com email address and attended a couple of fundraisers. But about a month after Mrs. Schwager volunteered, Mr. Guthrie hired a professional consultant and Mrs. Schwager’s email address was taken back and she had no more official involvement in the campaign. Much like Mr. Pittman noted that he can’t stop someone from expressing their First Amendment rights, Mr. Guthrie can’t stop someone from supporting him on their own time or from commenting on blogs. But the fact of the matter is that Mrs. Schwager is not an official employee or representative of Mr. Guthrie’s campaign and Mr. Pittman is not being honest when he claims that she is.
Okay, so yes, I know this has been a long post and blog posts are supposed to be short and concise. All I can say is that I made it as short as I could and hope it gives you a flavor of what is happening on the campaign trail in this race.
Trust me, the hard part is next because the subject matter is not what I want to be talking about but I’ve avoided it long enough. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the story.
UPDATE: Click here for the IAD files