Democratic candidate for sheriff John Barlow took to Facebook Tuesday night with a 599-word post addressed as an open letter to Republican candidate Elmer Tanner and “his gang of thugs.” In the post, Barlow made allegations against the sheriff’s department, complained about his signs being stolen or destroyed, and used two expletives, calling Tanner a “DUMB-@%%” once.
On Wednesday night, Barlow confirmed he did write the rant, and said his only regret was that he believed he had to speak out.
“I wish nothing like that had ever happened,” said Barlow, who ran unopposed in the primaries. “But I had to come out and say something.”
In closing, Barlow wrote:
“THIS IS FOR YOU, YOUR THUGS, AND THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SO STUPID THAT THEY WRITE STUPID COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE.
Barlow has 132 “friends” on Facebook, according to his profile page. Some of them commented, questioning the post, including former Corsicana Police Chief G.M. Cox, who said “... this kind of posting is below what I would expect of a man who want(s) to serve as sheriff.”
Barlow reiterated Wednesday that he still wants to be sheriff, but that he did not write the post to gain votes. He said he wrote it after visiting with a few people, including business owners, who had removed his signs. Some, he said, did so because they feared losing business from Tanner supporters if they left Barlow signs up.
Barlow said he also had become frustrated with missing or damaged signs, that in turn were replaced by Tanner signs. When interviewed Wednesday, Barlow said he had no proof that Tanner was directly involved, nor did he want to blame Tanner personally.
“I don’t know if Elmer was doing it, having people do it, or was with the people doing it,” he said. “I can’t blame anyone but the people putting signs up for him.”
Tanner defended his campaign.
“It is unfortunate that the campaign has taken such a negative turn,” Tanner said Wednesday. “From day one, I have always run an honest, straightforward and professional campaign. I have not and will not resort to negative ads or untrue statements against any candidate.”
When asked about the number of times his signs had disappeared, and then were replaced by Tanner signs, Barlow said “about six.”
Navarro County Elections Administrator Danda Parker said issues with signs come up every election.
“It’s common for signs to come up missing,” Parker said. “You can ask any candidate, one of the biggest complaints is money spent on signs that come up missing.”
With the majority of issues with signs, candidates are referred to the state ethics commission, Parker said. As for stolen or damaged signs, Parker’s office alerts the sheriff’s department, or the Corsicana Police Department.
In his post, Barlow said he would be contacting the ethics commission, and said that again Wednesday.
He also raised issues within the department regarding activities at the county farm, training classes and overtime. Barlow said he would be contacting the Attorney General’s office, the Texas Rangers and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) about those issues.
Current Sheriff Les Cotten had no comment on the issues raised by Barlow.
Barlow also said Wednesday he doesn’t consider himself a party person, but that he ran as a Democrat because he did not think he could defeat Tanner and Republican opponent Chief Deputy Mike Cox at the same time. Tanner won the GOP primary with 4,021 votes. Cox had 1,300, and Rice Police Chief Larry Cheek had 225. Barlow had 484 votes as the only candidate on the Democratic ticket.
In the primary, held in June, 5,670 county residents cast votes on the Republican ballot. The Democratic primary drew 757 voters.
“I don’t think we should have parties at these low-level elections,” he said.
Barlow said he would remove the post, and deactivate his Facebook account all together if he knew how.
He did not back down from his statements, though.
“That’s how I felt,” he said.
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