Hunt As Toast. What’s it mean?


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First, for Gustavo who’s too young to remember this song
– a little background music for the post –
Flipper’s “HA HA HA” (1981)

Bill Hunt thinks, 'Where did I go wrong?'

Of all our candidates Tuesday, Sheriff hopeful Bill Hunt’s racial dog-whistles were the most strident and insistent – even more so than Mansoor’s or Rohrabacher’s.  Did I say dog-whistles?  A poor choice of words – they were at a frequency even a water buffalo could hear.

From his feting Arpaio not once but TWICE, his proud dissemination of that famous Arpaio-Coe-Hunt photo, his loud embracing of Arizona’s SB 1070 and Mansoor’s Rule-of-Law measure, Bill Hunt was adamant that everybody know (even though he’s “not personally racist”) that if you can’t stand the sight of Mexicans, he’s the sheriff who’ll get rid of ’em for ya!

As the election got closer, and some young Latinos (the Santa Ana 8 ) held a pro-immigrant civil disobedience action that irritated a lot of people, Bill thought he saw a political opportunity and pounced with this press release:

While my opponents Sandra Hutchens and Craig Hunter remain preoccupied with issues unrelated to the Sheriff’s Race such as my profession as a Private Investigator working within the justice system, I believe voters should be appraised of the candidates’ position on issues facing the Sheriff’s Department and the County. One such issue is that of illegal immigration. I issue this challenge to each of my opponents to advise the public of their position on Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 and their proposed treatment of illegal immigrants who commit crimes of misdemeanor or above. My position is clear and longstanding. I support Arizona’s law and I will refer illegal immigrants to ICE upon arrest for a crime of misdemeanor and above. I believe we can safely assume that if my opponents remain silent on this challenge then they do not support Arizona’s law and they will continue in the practice of citing and releasing illegal immigrants back into our streets after they have committed crimes.

So, as June 8 approached, it became a high priority to us dedicated anti-racists to defeat this demagogue-in-the-making.  And a huge sigh of relief was breathed across the county when he was roundly trounced by incumbent Sheriff Hutchens Tuesday night.

I also noticed a couple other immigrant-bashing candidates going down in flames – gubernatorial candidate Little Poisoner who, desperate to beat Queen Meg’s millions, relentlessly trashed her for not being “tough” enough on the issue and finally, flamboyantly embraced Arpaio;  and of course Tan Nguyen whose main claim to fame was his 2006 letter intimidating Hispanic voters, for which he’s still unpunished and proud.

So, was this enough to make a pattern?  Was strident anti-immigrant rhetoric not cutting it, even in GOP primaries?  Were even Republicans turning against their xenophobic demagogues?  (Arpaio-endorsed candidates Mansoor and Wagner pulled through, but Mansoor didn’t have a serious challenger, and Wagner, apart from his hard work and weak opponents, is still not mainly known for his immigration stance.)

And could this augur badly in November for candidates who try to get their votes by appealing to racial resentment?

But on the other hand…

That was a nice thought, but it may be more realistic to remind ourselves that Hunt was beat by an incumbent with strong establishment support, and mediocre establishment-supported incumbents triumphed all over the OC against principled opponents – John Williams, Tom Daly, Ken Calvert, and Gary Miller, just to  name a few – this is still much more the rule than the exception.

I think there are two lessons, one encouraging and one discouraging:

  • Anti-immigrant positions and rhetoric aren’t enough to win you an election even in these dark days (and that just happens to be all Allan Mansoor, for one, has!)
  • It’s as hard as ever to defeat an establishment incumbent, or to make any meaningful political change at all really.  While our gun-nut Fringer friends were up in Fullerton waving Hunt signs on the freeway, we pro-democracy activists were Freeway Blogging on the 405 for Prop 15, and both of us failed dismally in our quixotic hopes for anti-establishment change.  It is a Sisyphean slog.  I’m saying, it’s HARRD WORK!


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.