Category Archives: Andrew Guenther

Hot Air

The Writer Speaks

Or not. Andrew Guenther of the IDS got back to me early yesterday afternoon regarding my questions about his Monday article critical of Darryl Neher’s bona fides as a Democrat. Here’s his email response, verbatim:

Hello Michael,

Thank you for your email, but everything I have to say about the subject is in my column. I appreciate your interest!

Thank you,

Andrew Guenther

Fair enough.

More Guenther

Well, how about that? Turns out many of us have been talking about the wrong internet forum on which Darryl Neher supposedly told the world he was a voting Republican at least through the 2000 presidential election. That was one of the assertions of the Guenther piece Monday in the IDS.

The IDS staffer contacted me twice yesterday after emailing me to say he would say no more (see above). His second missive read:


Also, no, I am not affiliated with either campaign.

Thank you,


Not long after that, apparently having read my Wednesday Pencil piece, he wrote this:


Also, you used the incorrect forum. The link to the correct one is below.

Thank you for your time.

The link takes you directly to a “garvey” comment about how the poster voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because the Republican candidate had promised Compassionate Conservatism. This “garvey” went on to imply s/he was sorely disappointed in Bush for pulling the wool over her/his eyes. Go ahead and read it for yourself.

BTW: We still have no verification that it was Darryl Neher posting under the screen name “garvey.”


No matter when and how Darryl Neher made his admitted transformation from Republican to Democrat, the question we’re grappling with, mainly, is how can an adult do such a flip-flop? Doesn’t that show…, um, what? Undependability? Sneakiness? Unbridled ambition — after all, how can a Republican get elected in Bloomington? A mercurial temperament? I suppose those who insist on bringing the subject up might want to imagine Neher’s guilty of all four vices.

Street talk here goes that Darryl Neher saw the light — the light pointing the way toward election in a one-party town — when he had himself certified by the Monroe County Democratic Party in 2007. None of us can know what was in Neher’s heart when he flipped. We can only judge him by his actions and they tell us that in four years on the city council, he’s been quite a dependable Dem. And check his platform: It reads awfully Democratic to me.

So can a person make such a switch as an adult and still be trusted?

Lemme tell you a story. I grew up in a working class neighborhood on the Northwest Side of Chicago. The most successful people living on the blocks surrounding my childhood home were low-level politicians or Outfit guys. No doctors or lawyers, no scientists, no authors, no one, that is, who had excelled. Excelling, as a matter of fact, would have been seen as presumptuous or even insulting to the rest of the neighbors.

The folks in my neighborhood had modest aims and achievements. Mr. LeFemina ran a dry cleaners. Mr. Micci was a cop. Mrs. Panarese, Mrs. Nichols, and Mrs. Lenczyk were housewives. Mr. Mundo and Mr. Matassa, both of whom lived in the most showy homes around, did nebulous work for the Mob but they were by no means counted among its top level guys. The Keating sisters who lived next door to my home had been schoolteachers.

They had one thing in common: They were all white. I don’t know precisely what Mr. LaFemina’s or Mr. Mundo’s or Miss Keating’s views were on civil rights and open housing — the buzz issues of the 1960s and ’70s. I only know that the preferred appellation for a dark skinned human in my old neighborhood was nigger. More open-minded souls might use the term coon. A relative liberal would call blacks darkies and titter nervously.

When Chicago’s blacks were marching on City Hall to demand more teachers, more classrooms, schoolbooks for all black children, and even breakfast for those kids who came from poverty-stricken homes, the whites of the city decided to boycott school one spring day. They wanted to show the world how disgusted they were by these “goddamned black bastards.” That was another preferred term for those who’d identified as Afro-Americans.

Those who sent their kids to school on boycott day and refused to sign a petition calling for blacks to be kept in their place had their homes egged and stoned.

I grew up in this environment. And even though my mother forbade the use of the term nigger in our home, I figured she was just weird. I’d told some pals about how it was wrong to say nigger and they laughed and pointed. The week after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed my sixth-grade classmate Paul Trulsch said, “That nigger got what he deserved.” I told him he was an asshole and so a fistfight ensued. For my part, I was hung with the tag, nigger-lover.

There was no worse thing to be known as.

I subsequently found it easier at times to say nigger around my neighborhood pals. I learned to shut my mouth when issues of race or civil rights came up. What was most important to me was never again to be referred to as the worst thing you could call a person.

As I grew older, this same pressure came to bear again and again but with relative maturity, more and more I came to reveal my true feelings. I started pulling away from the most hateful of my neighborhood pals. I started  going out of my neighborhood in search of new friends and new experiences. I met black people. Some became friends. There was a greater, more rewarding world out there than that of my all-white, scared, and hate-filled neighborhood.

Still, there was pressure. I worked at one place when I was about 24 years old. It was mostly white. Those whites, again, were working-class folk who thought little of doctors and lawyers and authors and even less — far less — of black people. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to advance in the company. And I sure as hell didn’t want to be called a nigger-lover again.

One day a co-worker who was black made some stupid mistake that meant some of the guys and I would have to work overtime. We sat around grousing about how unfair life was. “What a tutsoon (a Sicilian pejorative for a black person),” one guy said of the person who’d made the mistake. “Whaddya expect from a nigger,” another guy said.

I felt compelled to join in. “Yeah,” I said, “now that’s what you can call a stupid nigger.” Heads nodded all around.

What I didn’t know was another co-worker, a black guy with whom I’d been quite friendly, had just walked into the outer office and heard my line. I happened to walk into that outer office and saw him there, glaring at me. “What’s with the racial shit?” he demanded. I had no answer.

I could see the deep pain in his face. I’d wronged him. I’d hurt him. His eyes, in fact, were filled with tears. He never spoke with me again.

And so my own conversion was complete. Tolerance, acceptance, embracing of The Other race became my “core” philosophies. Racism, I learned that day, was more than a political or theoretical concept. It wounded human beings.

The image of Chris Jenkins’ face, full of rage, his eyes filled with tears, will never leave me.

Since then, I’d like to think I’m as un-racist a guy as can be. Many people think I bend over backward for Michael Brown and Martin Luther King Jr. and Eric Garner and the displaced people of New Orleans and Abner Louima and even Barack Obama. If I’m guilty of that, okay. It’s a hell of a lot better than seeing the distraught face of Chris Jenkins.

So, what does this story have to do with Darryl Neher?

This: Neher himself says he was strongly influenced to be a Republican by his childhood upbringing. As he got older and saw more of the world, he gradually came around to thinking that maybe the Republicans weren’t for him. He had his own epiphany, he says, when he saw how hurt his gay and lesbian friends were by Republican policies and attitudes.

He now says he is Democratic and progressive to his “core.”

A lot of my liberal and Left friends grew up in nurturing, caring, loving, embracing, kumbaya homes and neighborhoods. They never had to grapple with conflicting messages and pressures and even their own contradictory inner feelings. If you’ve never said the word nigger, if you’ve never marked the box next to a Republican’s name on a ballot, you can be proud of yourself. Keep in mind, though, the decision to do or not do those things isn’t natural or easy for many of us — maybe even most of us. Allow some consideration for the guy whose father was a Ronald Reagan idolator. Think about the insecure kid who grew up surrounded by racists.

I’ll never live down using the term nigger. I never want to. I want to remember how stupid I could be forever. It makes me who I am.

Being a Republican, of course, is not precisely analogous with being a racist or even the casual usage of racial slurs — although, the way things are going, that won’t be true terribly much longer. But perhaps Darryl Neher, if he did indeed vote for George W. Bush, keeps that election day fresh in his mind as well. It just might make him a better Democrat.

Hot Air

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,, 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.

Neher 20150309

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 I hope I can earn your trust and support in the Democratic Primary for Mayor. 

Best, Darryl

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
  • If the forum was, 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
  • 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.”
I’m hoping the other two get back to me with answers today.


In other mayoral campaign news, I saw longshot candidate John Linnemeier engaged in a tête à tête in a public place with a very prominent member of Mayor Mark Kruzan’s cabinet this morning. I grilled the department head, asking why s/he was meeting with the candidate. This department head said s/he was meeting Linnemeier as a courtesy s/he’d proffer to any citizen. “I’ll meet anyone anywhere,” this person said. The purpose of their meeting? “To exchange ideas.” When asked if the department head was a supporter of Linnemeier, s/he said, “No.”
If all this is true, I think it’s pretty cool. The department head’s boss, Mayor Mark Kruzan, has thrown his lot in with Darryl Neher. In an earlier day and another, less enlightened place, such a meeting would be career suicide for the department head.

John Linnemeier

Anyway, Linnemeier stopped by my table to chat after his meeting. He said, “Everybody thinks I’m gonna lose. I’m gonna win! Give me a level playing field [he’s refusing corporate donations] and I’ll kick their asses!” Meaning, of course, his two Dem primary opponents and not the citizenry of Bloomington.
BTW, Linnemeier also says he’s got a secret weapon issue that he’s sure will gain him scads o’votes. He made me swear to secrecy “for two weeks.” Alright, my lips are sealed ’till then.
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