Next to the justice system, the sheriff's office is the largest part of the County's budget. The office is the primary law enforcement entity in the county and oversees the county jail system. This November the incumbent Sheriff Richard Wiles will be facing challenger Tom Buchino.
Wiles is one of the more popular Democrats in El Paso county and has a pretty long track record of his position on issues facing the community and the department. His opponent, other than being supporting by the El Paso County Sheriff Officer Association, is somewhat of a mystery.
In fact, he's a bit elusive.
I've tried for a couple of weeks to get an interview with Buchino through contact on Twitter and via email. Mostly its gone ignored but eventually some of the contact was answered and to summarize the email conversations Buchino was essentially doing what ever he could to dodge an interview. He kept putting up strange caveats like wanting to wait until after there was a debate between he and Wiles and other conditions. The funniest is when he tried to tell me it wasn't going be video recorded. Maybe its because he's a new candidate and never run before but sorry Sergeant Major, it doesn't work that way. You're the candidate that wants votes, we get to ask you whatever we want and used whatever medium we want in public forums. Freedom of speech is protected in the constitution, you might want to look that up...
Speaking of a debate between Wiles and Buchino, it doesn't appear that one is going to happen soon. Frankly if I were advising Wiles I'd tell him to take the debate. Anytime, anywhere. Wiles is a long-serving incumbent. He knows the issues facing his office very well. Buchino, not so much. I think, from what little I've actually heard of, that Buchino is extremely scripted. That is why he makes so many videos. Its a controlled environment where he controls the narrative, no one is asking a question, and no one is there to scrutinize his rhetoric.
I also think Buchino feels comfortable in a debate because the answers are generally pretty short and can be scripted. Plus, having the support of the EPCSOA means he can probably pack the room with supporters and give himself another level of comfort. So personally, I'd take the debate, bring him out to the deep end of the policy pool and watch him drown.
But I can see the rationale of the Wiles campaign. Why give a challenger who isn't likely to win more than a handful of precincts, if any, an opportunity at any unearned attention? I get it. If you're the powerhouse school with a chance at the BCS, playing a small polytech with a big lead in the 4th quarter, you start benching your stars. No sense in getting anyone hurt for a game you're going to coast to win.
There are a few important issues that need to be discussed in this race, which is why its unfortunate that Buchino is camera shy. The community should hear the candidates' position on the budget, operations, detention processing, and enforcement.
Sheriff Wiles' position on these issues are well-documented over the years. Some of them, I fundamentally disagree with the sheriff on, like the fact that we house federal prisoners.
The budget is important because of how much money we spend on keeping this community safe. What are the candidates' plan to cut spending while not negatively impacting our safety. We have deputies doing a lot of jobs that could be done at a bigger savings to tax payers by civilians that don't have to make the large salaries of deputies and those deputies would be free to be deployed on the streets.
Operational conversations are important for this community to have. One of the interesting things that has com forward during the campaign out of the Buchino campaign has been a palpable desire to further militarize the sheriff's office. Guess what, that costs money. And Buchino can't really shake off the notion that he wants to militarize the office when he actually advertises his campaign with a military posture. Like this:
There is also a pretty easily identified parallel to the Trump campaign in Buchino's rhetoric. Following the Paris terrorist attacks earlier this year, Buchino referred to it in a video. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if there is a video in the works to take advantage of the latest event in New York over the weekend.
Sticking with costs, the downtown jail is a huge part of the budget because of the layout of the building the fact that its an older building. Its an inefficient layout and as a result, it costs tax payers more because you have to have more jailers on the payroll. That is a big place to save tax payers a real large amount of money, the question is if either candidate has the political will to take on the issue.
Perhaps where I'm guess, because one can only guess when Buchino won't answer questions, is where the two stand on the enforcement of immigration law. Buchino has made several references to his endorsement from the Samaniego family. Samaniego had a very troubled position on immigration and received a lot of criticism for his checkpoints. Obviously that begs the question of what Buchino's position on the enforcement of immigration law would be if he were elected sheriff.
By contrast Wiles has had a great relationship with the immigrant community and has been recognized for his work with immigrant communities.
THREE PROBLEMS FOR BUCHINO
Buchino has three issues that his campaign has to deal with, one is minor but the other two are potentially really problematic for Buchino.
First, the minor problem. Its honesty. He's pretty much being deceptive with voters by not including his party affiliation on his campaign literature. He put out a video where he tries to fend of the criticism by saying something that sounds like he announced he was a Republican in an elevator of a vacant building once. But in the most-visible representation of his campaign, the medium most likely to attract the attention of voters, Buchino doesn't include the fact that he's a Republican. Its problematic for a couple of reasons, but mostly because for a Republican he doesn't really seem to concerned about the financial obligations of the office. And because he's the union candidate, he doesn't really have a lot of leeway to even examine much in way of cost-cutting for tax payers.
One of the biggest problems for Buchino is the potential conflict of interest due to his business. He runs a tactical training facility. The questions he has to answer are has he ever solicited business with the county before? What are his plans for the business after the election if he wins? Does he close it, or keep it open? If so, what impact does that have considering he solicits business to train security personnel.
All questions that will go unanswered for now.
Tomorrow I'll talk about the biggest issue facing Buchino. I'll post that one tomorrow. Trust me, you don't want to miss it.