By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — Political races are very much like boxing matches. You expect punches – from jabs to uppercuts to right-crosses – to be thrown.
Occasionally, and sometimes inadvertently, a blow might go below the belt.
And other times, well, the below-the-belt punch – or the kidney punch or the shot after the bell – is deliberate and not done in the spirit of the battle.
Although boxing — like politics — is a vicious sport, it has its rules and seemingly inherent respect between combatants.
Once that is violated, you may as well have a brawl in the alley.
And in the race for Montgomery County Sheriff, the violation has been made by those in support of Democrat Sean Kilkenny.
And now we have a brawl in the alley.
Sullying our mailboxes this week was an oversized postcard from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in Harrisburg that cherry-picked a bunch of out-of-context items from articles written almost 10 years ago to make Republican Russell J. Bono, the current sheriff, appear guilty by extended association to a separate branch of a municipality accused of corruption in a FBI probe back in 2004.
There is also an insinuation that the NPD turned a blind eye to systematic corruption, even though the department’s primary function – as an undermanned unit – was to police the same unforgiving streets where Bono initially patrolled before working his way up the ladder, and likely dodged more bullets than Lt. Col. (eye roll) Kilkenny ever did shuffling papers as a JAG officer.
Bono, it should be noted, was in the Military Police but doesn’t feel the need gloat about it, as his law enforcement background of 45 years (45 more than Kilkenny) speaks for itself.
The reality is that the FBI found no wrongdoing in Bono’s department while he was Chief of Police in Norristown. In fact, his department not only cooperated, but assisted in the investigation. Funny, though, none of that is mentioned in this postcard from the edge of political sanity.
Bono remained on the job well beyond the probe that resulted in the former mayor, Ted LeBlanc, going to jail. Bono ended his long and distinguished, and unblemished, career in the department when he retired after 15 years as chief in 2013.
When Sheriff Eileen Behr resigned, Bono was cajoled out of a peaceful retirement by a bipartisan collective of politicians extending from the county and all the way to Harrisburg. If his reputation was so sullied, as the Kilkenny campaign is now insinuating, his nomination would have never sailed through – from both sides of the aisle – as it did.
When I signed on as the Chair of Democrats for Bono, I willingly risked alienation from many local Democrats. The reality is that I generally split my ticket in local elections anyway, and may actually pull the full GOP lever on Nov. 3 (maybe making me the only unabashed Bernie Sanders supporter in the county doing so).
There was part of me that wondered why anyone would vote for a lawyer in a job that requires law enforcement experience. (What’s next? An accountant running for coroner, maybe?)
But that wasn’t it.
Aside from being way past caring what anyone thinks, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
I did it because I knew Sheriff Bono for years – I still call him “Chief” because that was his title when I was the cop reporter at the Times Herald for 2 ½ years – and felt secure in the knowledge I was crossing enemy lines to hitch myself to the right wagon.
After getting this piece of bleep in the mail the other day, it affirms my decision.
It also affirms a bit about Kilkenny, who I would suppose knew this mailer in support of his bid was going out.
I don’t know the man. And, like I said, I willingly aligned myself with the “Chief” because I did know him. It was nothing personal about his opponent (other than that, as a lawyer, his bid seemed a bit ill-fitted).
But I will say this. There is almost no one I speak with, from either party, who has a kind word to say about Kilkenny from personal dealings.
Because I am not a believer in playing Whisper Down the Lane and forming opinions, I wasn’t going to go there.
But now the gloves are off. It’s no longer a boxing match. It’s a brawl in the alley.
Kilkenny’s only chance of winning, it would seem, would be to get the votes of people who don’t know him from personal dealings — or who see props for his propaganda as the truth, when they are anything but the truth.
And a blind following to the polls, based on a cache of lies and half-truths on a mail item, would be a shame for the residents of Montgomery County.
If Kilkenny’s supporters want to dish out a disingenuous attack, it had better be prepared to take the counter-attack.
Kilkenny’s name has surfaced in two more recent federal probes, in Allentown and Reading.
He is professing his innocence and cooperation in those probes. In doing so, one wonders if he is throwing the police chiefs of Allentown and Reading under the bus the way his supporters are trying to do, with some fragmented hindsight, with Bono.
He is not running against them for sheriff, so probably not.
Ironically, the man in the hot seat in the Allentown probe is the mayor, Ed Pawlowski, who was supported in his bid by Kilkenny .
In Reading, Kilkenny’s name surfaces again in connection with a former mayor, Vaughn D. Spencer.
And yet the mailer in question wants to link Bono to LeBlanc, but escape the same scrutiny and be taken seriously?
I wonder how some people look at themselves in the mirror each morning (although if you look like a raccoon, it might be good for some levity).
Another bitter irony, that I know for a fact – since I was there, covering this on a daily basis – is that Kilkenny’s backers are culling crime statistics from a portion of Bono’s tenure and saying Norristown was “plagued by high crime.”
First, I need to again point out that Bono was sought out to be Behr’s replacement as sheriff for a reason, and that was because he ran an efficient department in a municipality that is plagued with socio-economic concerns out of the NPD’s control.
If anyone should understand that, it should be a card-carrying liberal like Kilkenny and the Pennsylvania Democrats behind this work of fantastical fiction.
I’m one, too, and I certainly understand.
Secondly, and more direct to the point, the crime rate went up because two Democratic members of Norristown council – including one that is now the head of the Norristown Democratic Committee – came to Bono and asked him to form what came to be known as the Bee Sting Unit.
The crime stats went up, naturally, because the Bee Sting Unit was geared toward thwarting quality of life crimes (disorderly conduct, vandalism, loitering, public drunkenness, etc.) that were believed to help feed the atmosphere that would lead to larger crimes.
Is the crime rate in Norristown down now? Yes. Why? Because the Bee Sting Unit gave way to the more chic mode of community policing, where most of those nabbed in quality of life crimes are sort of moved along and warned but not issued citations or arrested.
These are not random, disjointed attempts at gathering something that resembles a hodge-podge of facts. A prime example comes from the mailer in question. There is an accusation that drug money disappeared from the NPD evidence room in 1998. Guess what, folks? That was before Bono was made chief late in December of that year as a direct result of the drug-money scandal surrounding a Democratic-appointed chief, Tom Stone.
The bottom line is that the Kilkenny campaign is grasping at straws to find dirt on a clean opponent. In the process, those involved may end up sipping through a figurative straw as a result of a clean and Kosher knockout punch to the jaw.