Fields: Sheriff’s Office Should Remain Partisan

Guest Columnist

(Sam Fields is a local lawyer and a long-time Democratic activist.)

As I have previously written I supported Republican Al Lambertti in November.  It was for a  four-year term, not a life sentence.  This ploy to take partisan politics out of the sheriff’s race is as cynical as it gets.

If he wanted to assure us that he did not believe that the Sheriff should be partisan, the first thing he should have done was change his registration from Republican to Independent.  Fat Chance.

If he really believed that party registration impaired the public’s ability to pick the best qualified, he should have gone all the way and recommend that the job be appointed by the County Commission in the same way it appoints the County  Manager, County Attorney of County Auditor.

Every single city does it that way.  The Governor appoints the heads for FDLE and the Highway Patrol.   They generally do a decent job.

The simple truth is that the public is only slightly better qualified to pick the Sheriff than it is to pick the Chief of Oncology at Broward General.

Then again that probably applies to most public offiices, and yet it seems to have worked out pretty well for 200-plus years.

10 Responses to “Fields: Sheriff’s Office Should Remain Partisan”

  1. LEO says:

    There should be no politics in a law endorsement job. When you call 911, the operator doesn’t ask you if you are Republican or Democratic.

  2. Broward voter says:

    Using that simpified and stupid standard, no elected office should be partisan. Of course all elected officials should care about all of their constituents needs regardless of their party. But it goes way beyond that.

    In law enforcement, there are fundamental differences in priorities – such as prevention of crime (particularly in juveniles), how we treat those who are incarcerated, how we value community programs, whether we support the unions and thus retain higher quality more experienced officers to name just a few.

    The problem is that so many of our elected officials determine their party affiliation based on what will get them elected and it has nothing to do with any real ideology.

  3. Marty Rubinstein says:

    No Sam, it really hasn’t been this way for 200 plus years. It hasn’t been Democrat vs. Republican.

    Federalist vs. Whig. Whig vs. Democratic Republican. Political parties were never very big on the local front until the 20th century and the great depression.

    What we experience today grew out of post WWII politics, specifically Vietnam war era politics.

    What we’re left with today is whacked out ultra liberal Democrats vs. second coming of Ronald Reagan whacked out ultra right wing dogmatic conservatives (who by the way have no clue as to who Reagan was.)

    This past sheriff election left us with two republicans (one of which was an “R” in “D” clothing.)

    Trust me when I say that even in non-partisan sheriff races, the whacked out ends of both parties will get behind one candidate or another.

    Dems will still get behind registered Dems and R’s will still get behind registered R’s.

    The only real differences will be that both candidates will place the words “Non-Partisan” in their advertising rather than “Republican” or “Democrat,” and there will be no “lock out” primaries through write ins.

    One primary. Either one victor with 50% plus one vote or the two top vote getters.

    The term “Non-Partisan” is nothing but a joke in everything but judicial races.

    And sometimes even then.

    Believe me, I was present when Steve Feren broke the law and announced in a speech to the Republican Executive Committee that he was a “registered Democrat.” (he got booed.)

    NP candidates should be prevented from disclosing party registration as Judicials are supposed to be. No political q&a. No political speeches. Only what the candidate has accomplished relative to the position and what they would envision for the office.

    No more “wink, wink, nod, nod.”

    All else is BS.

  4. Confusion says:

    People confuse the notion of what should be an appointed position versus an elected position. Here’s my take on it.

    Elected positions should be for those that are in legislative or high executive capacity. These are people that run on a “political platform.” As such, making them partisan gives the voter an idea where they lean toward and their own rhetoric will help voters conclude how far they lean, left or right. Commissioners, state representatives, members of congress. All these should be partisan elected officials. They are not all elected partisan, but if they create laws, then they should be partisan because that’s the American system and it works well that way.

    Then you have the elected “constitutional officers.” In Broward, these are sherrif, property appraiser, the clerk of the courts, and the supervisor of elections. These peole don’t create laws, they enforce them no different than any other high ranking staff does. Frankly, I don’t see why any of these positions need to be elected at all. Rather, we should find the best police chief, and the best at those other jobs, and hire them as staff. Yet they are elected partisan and yes one has to wonder why (especially the supervisor of elections, for crying out loud!) but the real question is why they need to be elected officials at all.

    As to judges, the suggestion has already been made on these pages that judges should be selected by randomly picked panels of retired judges, they nominate three candidates for every vacancy, non-partisan and with diversity and qualifications in mind, and the Governor must pick from that list to fill the vacancies. This is a much better system than what we have now. Judges can’t “run” for office because of all the constraints on what they say, and frankly voters are not smart enough to know who among the candidates would be the best judge. It’s too technical for them to figure that out. Our nation’s founders understood this which is why members of the Supreme Court are not made to run for office. All of these points would make for a much better system than we have now.

  5. Sam Fields says:

    Dearest Marty,
    You want the law to prevent NP candidates from disclosing their party registration.

    Since there must be a penalty you advocate fining and/or jailing political candidates for announcing their party registration. Wow!!

    No problem. But first you are going to have to alter the First Amendment which will henceforth be known as The Rubinstein Edition.

    Frankly I think judges should run partisan. In state and federal courts they are overwhemingly appointed by secretive committees that are highly partisan.

    Not withstanding Broward’s Democratic tilt all members of the Judical Nominating Committee (appointed by Jeb and Crist) are GOP as are the judges they appoint.

    Why can’t the voters also consider party? Are you just an elitist?

    There are few things more likely to inform a voter about a judical candiate more than party.

    In most states judges run partisan and they are no more or less corrupt or incompetent than here in the Sunshine State.

  6. Hey Sam says:

    Hey Sam, quick question: Why do you feel the need to become such a little bitch everytime somebody expresses a different viewpoint from yours? Not everybody sees things the same way you do. This fact that can’t be a revelation to you. Why do you feel the need to ridicule folks just becase they disagree with you? Don’t you know how to disagree without being disagreeable? Your responses don’t make them look dumb, quite the contrary actually. I find most of the posts on this blog to be refreshingly honest and smart. Please join us more often in that light.

  7. Marty Rubinstein says:

    So Sam,

    What you’re suggesting is that the election law and judicial cannons that oversee the races for Judge are unconstitutional.

    Somehow, I don’t think so. I cant’ imagine that these rules have not been challenged in higher courts. I can do the research and so can you.

    But I think we both know the answer already.

    So it won’t be the “Rubinstein edition” of the first amendment, it’ll just be the first amendment.

    Seems to me that I recall that you were abiding by the non-partisan rules when you ran for judge. No complaints either public or private.

    When candidates change parties just to run for a seat, ANY seat, something’s wrong. You can’t possibly tell us that Scott Israel was the one leopard that changed his spots to run for sheriff.

    I know more than one Republican that switched to Dem just to run for a non-partisan office let alone a partisan one.

    Qualifications for judge ought to be legal knowledge and accomplishment, not party.

    Qualifications for School Board ought to be knowledge, experience in the system and accomplishment, not party.

    Qualifications for City Commission should be community involvement and accomplishment, not party.

    Does your law firm (assuming you’re not an independent) choose new hires by party or by qualification?

    And no, Confusion, the office of sheriff should NOT be appointed. THAT would guarantee partisan politics for the appointment.

  8. Marty Rubinstein says:

    Dear Hey Sam,

    Pardon me if (as unlikely as it seems) I come to Sam’s defense. While Sam and I are not (you should pardon the pun) buddy buddy, we have tangled in person in the past and I have also seen him in action as an attorney.

    Sam’s a fine advocate for his clients. They’re well represented.

    I would be tempted to say that Sam plays it up in his written opinion, but he really doesn’t.

    Sam can be even more outrageous in person than he is here.

    Which is why I suspect Buddy gives carte blanche to his posts, whacked out, yet entertaining as they can be.

    Personally, I enjoy our written debates here. I find them stimulating and these days I need the mental exercise.

    So let Sam exercise his first amendment right, and enjoy his decidedly unconventional opinion for what it truly is.

  9. Sam Fields says:

    Thank you for defending my snarky retorts. It goes with being a Galitzianer

    Judicial Canons have been ruled unconstituional in the past. What is known as the Stafford Opinion allows Florida judicial candidates to discuss issues.

    I don’t believe that anyone has litigated the party affilation issue.

    Judges have differing judical philosophies and D or R might be the easiest way to let the voters get a quick read.

    I can’t think of anything more partisan than educational issues with the exceptions of abortion and gun control. Ergo School Board candidates should be partisan.

    As for local elections they should also be partisan. When did it happen that political philosphy stopped at the town hall? We are not aribtrarily asigned a political party. We join a party because it expresses a view of how government should behave. Why shouldn’t the voters know that about us????

    I see party affiliation as a Cliff Notes way to educate the voters. Right now in low funded races like judges the voters are left with little more than gender and ethnicty that might be revealed by the name. Do you think that is better? I am dealing in the real world and not the ideal world.

    You seem to thnk that being asked to reveal your party is akin to being asked to discuss your sex life.

  10. Marty Rubinstein says:

    Now hold on there, pardner…

    We’re not talking about discussing issues, we’re talking about partisan politics. You know, asking for a vote because you’re a Democrat or a Republican or a whatever.

    A judicial candidate cannot weigh in on political actions of either party, nor can they even reveal what their affiliation is, although Steve Feren thinks he’s above such tripe.

    A judicial candidate like Feren sure could weigh in on civic issues and even city of sunrise issues since he was mayor.

    But the “vote for me because” side of politics is and should remain a no-no. Politics has absolutely nothing to do with civil and criminal court cases in general.

    There are no more “hanging judges.” But then again there are liberal judges like “Let ’em go Lebow.” Lebow’s being a judge is just fine on the scheme of things,but we don’t want wholesale releases of criminals either.

    School Board? Party politics? I was there once. Party politics had little or nothing to do with the reality of the operation. Day to day operation has NOTHING to do with partisan politics.

    It’s all about doing the job, not about getting more and more money to waste. And I was about cutting waste.

    I ran the tightest budget of any School Board Member then or since. I was chided by (you guessed it) Steve Feren for not padding my capital budget. I was and still am a Democrat, yet I voted against raising taxes. I gave project managers hell for not getting things done on time or on budget. And when a manager came to me with a request for an extra $600,000 simply because the years of his own delay ended with increased cost of materials, I went ballistic. He found the money.

    So you’re suggesting that School Board Members turn a blind eye to millions in wasted dollars and just go demand more money from the taxpayer? Not while I’m on watch.

    I fired Frank Till because of his incompetent waste of millions of taxpayer dollars.

    And thinking of Pete Tingom… Buddy, ask Pete whatever happened with the task assigned by Till to review and fix the wasted million dollar ten year master plan that was full of inaccuracies and holes.(another Frank Till waste of taxpayer money.)

    Meanwhile… Municipal campaigns partisan? I know of no roads that are Democratic or Republican, no parks that are D or R, no civic centers, no general localized governmental operations that are D or R.

    Municipal electeds are all about serving residents, not just D’s or R’s. Most elected D municipal representatives would make Republicans envious with their desire to maximize efficiency in capital spending and getting a good “bang for their buck” when it comes to spending wisely.

    No. Municipals should remain non-partisan.

    Reveal D or R? Personally, I don’t care one way or the other. I vote for the individual I believe will do the job regardless.

    I vote for Democrats. I vote for Republicans. I am not a mind numbed robot in the voting booth.

    Sex life? Judicial candidates should always talk about sex lives before ever revealing Party affiliation!