Somehow I missed this press release from Independent candidate for Sheriff Jim Harrison last Friday, June 6th. When I saw his comment this morning under the June 1st article entitled,
I went looking and found the following, which seems to have been issued after a similar signed letter was published in the Northwest Herald:
Jim Harrison Responds to Criticism of Memorial Day Petitioning
Dear Donna McAnally:
I read the McHenry County Blog the other day and saw your complaint to Cal Skinner concerning the circulation of my nomination petitions for the Office of Sheriff, at the Crystal Lake Memorial Day service.
Because Mr. Skinner is an announced supporter of my opponent, I approach articles and comments that “anonymously” appear in his blog, with a certain degree of skepticism.
However, last night I saw your similar letter to the editor of the Northwest Herald, wherein your name was published.
Since you appear to be relentless in your enmity over this issue, the following is my response to your criticism of my campaign for circulating nomination petitions at Memorial Day events around the county:
First, I meant no disrespect by having campaign workers circulating nomination petitions on Memorial Day; quite the contrary actually. My father was a World War II Veteran, having fought in the engagements at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, and he was a twice-wounded recipient of the Purple Heart. I grew up understanding and respecting America’s Memorial Day tradition of honoring the military men and women who gave their lives for our Country.
We honor the sacrifices made by these men and women, not only by our parades and speeches and 21-gun salutes, but also through our exercise of the rights secured to us by the Constitution – the same Constitution that our military men and women swear an oath to “protect and defend” – the same Constitution that our fallen military men and women defended with their lives. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides the right to free speech, which includes the right to circulate nomination petitions for political candidates. The free exercise of the rights bestowed on us by the Constitution, particularly on Memorial Day, honors our military men and women who died in defense of those very freedoms.
On a more practical and less constitutionally-theoretical basis, I note from the article that your
personal experience involved a circulator standing yards from the cemetery at the Crystal Lake
Memorial Day service. I’ve since inquired and learned that the circulator was standing on a public sidewalk, outside of the cemetery, circulating nomination petitions to persons entering and leaving the grounds. Public sidewalks are for the use of the “public,” including members of the public who choose to exercise their First Amendment right to circulate nomination petitions.
The “public” needs no permission to be on a public sidewalk.
There is nothing “shameful” or “offensive” or “disrespectful” about a citizen exercising their constitutional rights in a public place during a government-sponsored community event.
Opinions may certainly differ over the choice of when and where and how, and that is to be expected with “opinions,” but the underlying right is constitutional. There is also a significant difference between a private funeral service and a public Memorial Day service. So let’s keep things in perspective here; the woman in question was circulating nomination petitions, not protesting the Memorial Day service; motive does matter. She was outside of the cemetery, away from the service, on a public sidewalk, peaceably exercising her First Amendment rights.
There were hundreds of people around McHenry County who also invoked their constitutional rights by signing my nomination petitions on Memorial Day. Is their exercise of their constitutional rights considered by you to be “shameful” and “offensive” and “disrespectful” as well? If so, then we will just have to agree to disagree on this point.
If politics was played on a level playing field, and I only had to collect 517 petition signatures like my political party opponent, my supporters and I would have been done collecting signatures back in March on the first weekend after the collection period began. Because I am running my campaign independent of party politics, instead of 517 signatures, I need to obtain 6,728 signatures for voters to have a choice for Sheriff in November. I have the same amount of time (90 days) to collect 13 times as many signatures as my political party opponent. Although I disagree with this discrimination in the Election Code, I have to comply with its provisions. To obtain the many thousand signatures of voters that are needed, and to do so in such a compressed time frame, requires our presence at as many public gatherings as possible, including Memorial Day activities.
As for the “holy day” comment made by the circulator, the comment was improper. According to the circulator she responded to the comment that her conduct was “shameful on a holy day” by stating “it’s not a holy day.” Nevertheless, there was no need for the circulator to resort to religious dogma in order to defend her clearly constitutional activity. I assure you that our circulators are instructed to ignore public criticism of their First Amendment activities; however, campaign workers are human too, and as much as we encourage them otherwise, sometimes they emotionally react rather than rationally respond to comments and political criticisms. Rest assured the matter has been addressed with the circulator.
At the time that these events took place, I had no personal knowledge of the identity or location of this circulator or of any comments that may have been exchanged with her constitutional critics. Personally, my wife and I participated in the ceremonies in our home town of Johnsburg on Memorial Day. However, I accept full responsibility for the protected political activities of the circulators working on my campaign and I will support and defend their constitutional right to engage in those activities. I respect your right to hold a different opinion, that’s what makes our country special.
Our laws control the manner in which nomination petitions may be circulated and the circulator’s conduct in this instance was consistent with the law and protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. In my opinion, criticism of a citizen’s lawful exercise of protected First Amendment activities on Memorial Day dishonors the sacrifice of the men and women who died to provide those freedoms. Some of the American blood that was spilled in defense of this country was my father’s; I feel that I honor his service when I exercise the freedoms for which his blood was spilt.
Whether we choose to observe Memorial Day as a solemn event in quiet remembrance of our fallen military men and women who died for our country, or whether we choose to acknowledge and appreciate their sacrifice by exercising the rights they died to defend, we honor their service, their sacrifice, and their memory. May God bless the souls of the men and women who gave their lives in defense of our country, and may God also bless your sons and keep them safe during their tours of duty.