LONSBERRY: Is Todd Baxter A Republican Or Democrat?

Hand grenades are defensive weapons.

When you are being overrun, when you are getting your can kicked, you uncork the grenades. You just start lobbing them. You make it all go boom and hope you come out the other side.

That’s how it is in the campaign against Todd Baxter.

They’ve started throwing the grenades.

That means they’re afraid. Probably they’ve got polling, and he’s either on their neck or in the lead, and they’re somewhere between panic and desperation, so they’ve turned nasty and negative.

It’s right out of the playbook.

Thus the ugly mailings and ugly TV ads and ugly radio ads. The distortions and attacks, bombasts and lies. Expect the robo calls at any time. They are chucking grenades as fast and as furious as they can in hopes of holding him off.

And the irony is, they’re coming from both sides.

In recent days, in an effort to defeat Todd Baxter in his quest to become Monroe County sheriff, both Republicans and Democrats have launched partisan attacks against him. Republicans call him a Democrat, and Democrats call him a Republican. Each seeks to slur him among members of one party by tying him to the leaders and issues of the other party.

And so it is that the Republican Party sent out mailings that tie him to Nancy Pelosi and Andrew Cuomo, and a Democrat activist published a blog that demanded to know his position on abortion. Just as the RepublicanParty is doing everything it can to label him a liberal, the Brighton Democratic Committee is trying to think of a way to punish the Monroe County Democratic Committee for putting him on the ballot.

The thing is, they’re both right.

When the Republicans say he’s not one of them, they’re right. When the Democrats say he’s not one of them, they’re right as well. The truth is, Todd Baxter, candidate for sheriff, is neither a Republican nor a Democrat.

He is a cop.

And that’s kind of the point. 

As our society devolves into a giant whizzing match between Team A and Team B, Todd Baxter isn’t playing that game. He’s not for one party or the other, he’s for everybody. And he’s not against anybody. He believes that partisanship and party politics should have nothing to do with anything the sheriff’s office does. 

Law enforcement is law enforcement, it doesn’t come in different flavors based on party registration.

And if elected, he will serve and protect – and seek advice from and good relations with – everyone, including people who identify as Republicans or Democrats. 

He kind of proved that by taking his personal values – which tend to be conservative – and finding a home for them on the Democratic line. His very candidacy is proof that bridges and partnerships can be built, even in the face of philosophical differences.

What will determine the success of that candidacy is how Republicans and Democrats respond to the hand grenades. If they are herded like sheep into partisanship, he’s screwed. If they back up and consider that the sheriff’s race is about something more than a partisan litmus test, he’ll be ok.

So that becomes the issue.

Can Democrats accept a man who has spent his entire adult life in uniform? Can Republicans accept a man who was recruited by Joe Morelle and who has campaigned with Willie Lightfoot and Jackie Ortiz?

Can voters of both parties be motivated by something other than contempt for people who are different from them?

Can this be about principles that know no party and which serve everyone?

Of course it can.

Democrats can absolutely vote for the most qualified sheriff’s candidate on their line in decades. Democrats can absolutely vote for someone who sees the jail as a safety net and the first step to rehabilitation for those caught up in the criminal justice system. Democrats can absolutely vote for a man hired and trusted by Bob Duffy and Cedric Alexander. Democrats can absolutely vote for a man who will never forget the hospitality and welcome their party showed him.

And Republicans can absolutely vote for a man whose core values are more conservative than the man he is hoping to replace. Republicans can absolutely vote for a man whose only sin is not bowing to the dictates of the party chairman. Look at Todd Baxter’s record, and try to find anything in his life that goes contrary to Republican thinking.

And look at Todd Baxter’s professional record – his active service as a police officer, soldier or veterans advocate -- and try to find anything that would tell you anything about his personal politics. 

Because you won’t find it.

You will just find a cop.

Not a Republican, not a Democrat. 

Just a cop.

With the administrative and leadership ability to lead from the front. With the personal experience and charisma to inspire the men and women of the largest law-enforcement agency in Monroe County. With the spirit ofservice upon him in such a fashion as to be a tireless defender of the residents, deputies, civilians and prisoners for whom he has stewardship.

They’re throwing grenades because they’re scared.

Because they know he’s probably going to win on Tuesday.

Because they want to buffalo you into voting against him. 

Because he’s the best candidate, and they can’t beat him on issues and qualifications.

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