He Said, He Said
Was it a “gotcha” moment perpetrated by a Hamilton camp operative? Or did that Indiana University student who questioned Darryl Neher’s progressive credentials in Monday’s IDS do us all a service by exposing the mayoral candidate’s sneakiness?
The question has been raised: Is Darryl Neher a Democrat or a Republican?
I’d thought that was settled long ago. Apparently not.
IDS staffer Andrew Guenther zinged Neher Monday with a piece headlined “One Bloomington; Two Darryls” that calls into question the former Republican’s commitment to the Democratic Party. Guenther wrote that, contrary to repeated public statements by Neher, the current city council member continued to vote in Republican primaries through 2007 and bragged of voting for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election on a now-defunct Internet political forum.
“Darryl Neher,” Guenther wrote, “needs to answer some tough questions before he is ready to run for Mayor of Bloomington.”
The forum, assmotax.org, does not exist at this time and one former participant on it tells me it has been deactivated for some 10 years. The URL does not direct to an active page and a WHOIS search reveals no information about any current owner of the subdomain name.
Neher, acc’d’g to Guenther, has declared that he has “consistently supported and voted for Democrats” since entering graduate school in 1989. Neher’s vote for Bush in 2000 and his participation in six Republican primaries since that time belie his assertion.
“As we can see from his record,” Guenther concludes, “Neher is not [standing by his convictions]. We deserve progress. We deserve honest leaders. We deserve answers.”
As reported here yesterday, Neher addresses his party switch at many or all of his house party campaign events. “There it is: the elephant in the room,” Neher said to a group in the Renwick neighborhood Monday evening when someone asked him about his switch.
Darryl Neher [right] Listens To A Supporter
Neher rarely fails to mention that he is progressive to the “core” and that his voting record during his four-year term as city council Dist. V rep demonstrates an unmistakable commitment to Democratic and progressive principles.
I contacted Neher yesterday for reaction to the IDS piece. He sent me a draft copy of his open letter to the Monroe County Democratic Party. Here it is:
To all Monroe County Democrats,
As I run for the Democratic nomination to become Bloomington’s next mayor, some people have asked for an explanation of why I switched party affiliation. I am happy to provide openness and clarity to this question.
Am I a Democrat? Yes, I am a Democrat to the core. I actively chose to become a Democrat in 2008 because it is the party that represents my values.
Was I formerly a Republican? Yes. I was raised in small-town northern Indiana in a blue-collar Republican household, so this was my family culture. I grew up with a brand of Republicanism that emphasized fiscal responsibility, support for small community businesses, public investment in infrastructure, and a belief in volunteerism and serving the common good.
My personal history helps illustrate the transformation of my politics solidly into the Democratic camp. After life-changing service trips to Sierra Leone, West Africa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras during college, I entered graduate school at IU to study issues of race, gender, and social justice. I researched and wrote about the importance of re-writing our histories to reflect true multicultural impacts on our national identity. And since entering graduate school in 1989, I have consistently supported and voted for Democrats for local, state, and national offices.
My political transformation accelerated between 1996 and 2006 while I hosted public affairs radio programming. I found myself increasingly critical of Republican politics. The erosion of civil liberties, implementing economic policies that punished working families, attempts to dismantle public education, and a pervasive “anti-science” mentality made me question “Why am I here?”
But perhaps a more important factor in finding my political home within the Democratic Party is my deep loyalty to my LGBTQ friends and colleagues. I struggled with how I could in good conscience align myself with a political party that consistently tells people I love that they should be denied so many rights because of who they are; denying my friends the right to marry the person they love, telling them they should silence themselves if they want to serve their country, and often denying them the beauty of adopting a child and providing that child a loving home was simply unacceptable.
I entered politics for the first time in 2011 and consider myself a public servant not as a politician. Our former Party Chair Rick Dietz certified me as a Democrat before I ran for City Council. Three former Democratic Party chairs joined my committee in 2011, and I feel the continued support of strong Democrats in our city on my mayoral campaign committee, including current Mayor Mark Kruzan, State Representative Matt Pierce, County Councilmember Shelli Yoder, and former Democratic Party Chairs Dan Combs and Pat Williams.
My track record on City Council also represents my strong Democratic principles. I am proud to have earned the support of all eight of my Democratic City Council colleagues who selected me to serve as the Council President for two straight years. I co-sponsored our Marriage Equality Resolution and was one of the first public officials to marry same-sex couples in our city. I supported resolutions against Citizens United and for Medicaid Expansion for the Affordable Care Act. I advocated increased funding for Planned Parenthood through my role on the Jack Hopkins Fund committee. I enthusiastically advocated for historic preservation, stood up for tenants’ rights, and voted for public funding of the arts and social services.
I am a Democrat, I won an election as a Democrat, and I’ve governed as a Democrat.
If you have further questions, please send them my way at Darryl.Neher@gmail.com. I hope I can earn your trust and support in the Democratic Primary for Mayor.
After receiving this, I sent Neher a list of questions concerning the IDS piece and his party switch. Here they are:
- What is the “Monroe County/Bloomington forum” the author refers to in paragraph 4?
- Did you use the screen name “garvey” on that forum? What is the meaning or genesis of the term “garvey”?
- Did you write that you supported George W. Bush in the 2000 election on that forum?
- Did you thank voters for supporting you in your campaigns for city council on that forum?
- Is (or was) that forum called assmotax.org?
- If the forum was assmotax.org, was it customary for posters to state ideas and claim affiliations that they didn’t necessarily believe in so they could generate discussions on it?
- Did you state ideas and claim affiliations that you didn’t necessarily believe in on that forum?
- Did you vote for George W. Bush in the 2000 and/or 2004 presidential elections?
- Did you vote in Republican primaries in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007?
- In an earlier email to me today, _______ referred to the author of the op/ed piece as a Hamilton staffer. How does [s/he] know this?
For his part, Guenther is listed as a member of the IDS staff on the newspaper’s website. His articles seem to be more opinion-y, even verging on bloggish. I dug up a Facebook page for someone named Andrew Guenther who studies political science and psychology at IU and who lists his work as “Case Manager at Indiana University Department of Student Rights, Housing Assignment Support Staff at IU RPS and Director of Social Advocacy at IU Residence Hall Association.” This Guenther also mentions that he was a member of Indiana High School Democrats.
I submitted a list of questions to Guenther of the IDS. Here they are:
- How did you get the idea to check the archive of the defunct website assmotax.org?
- How do you know Darryl Neher used the screen name “garvey”?
- Certain members of the Neher camp believe you are working for the Hamilton campaign. Are you? Have you ever? What is your relationship with John Hamilton, Dawn Johnsen, and/or the Hamilton for Mayor operation?
- Do you have a personal stake in the upcoming mayoral election? That is, do you have a preference for who wins?
- What is your role at IDS? Are you a reporter or an op/ed writer? Are you both? When you wrote the Neher piece in question, did you do it as a straight reporter or as an opinion columnist?
Hoping to cover all my bases, I submitted a few questions to John Hamilton. Here they are:
- Does Andrew Guenther work or volunteer for your campaign?
- Has he ever worked or volunteered for you in any political campaign?
- Is challenging Darryl Neher’s credentials as a Democrat a strategy or tactic of your campaign?
Hamilton’s answers, in order:
- “No, he does not.”
- “Never has, so far as I’m aware.”
- “No, neither I nor our campaign has a strategy or tactic of challenging Darryl’s credentials as a current Democrat — he was approved to run as one by the party in 2011 and won election and is serving as a Democrat on city council. I and my campaign do view different backgrounds in experience and policies of all the candidates, accurately described, as relevant.”