The Sheriff Versus The Puppets

Eric Noble - Loudoun Lifer, Ricky Frye - Lone Wolf
Loudoun Lifer (L) and Lone Wolf, aka, Eric Noble and Ricky Frye. (Of other aliases … only the local news editors know for sure).

Some say elections are won and lost by soldiers in the trenches. Boots on the ground. None fits that bill better than the contest for sheriff of Loudoun County, where boots cover socks, and soldiers are puppets.

In other words: Sock puppets.

Of the gifts Loudoun County politics bestows upon local bloggers – and trust me, the cornucopia is bountiful – few surpass the sideshows and subplots of our beloved quadrennial sheriff campaigns.

This year, the incumbent Sheriff Mike Chapman faces former deputy Eric Noble in the battle for the Republican nomination, which will be decided on May 2 at the Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC) convention. Both are likeable, decent men. As noted in yesterday’s article, Chapman has enjoyed a successful first term in office, though periodically under surprising criticism from political opponents within the LCRC.

One of Noble’s key errors in the run up to this race was to engage in anonymous commenting on local news sites, along with his campaign “tag team” member and former Loudoun deputy, Ricky Frye. Despite being an impressive public speaker and – in my opinion – political natural, Noble has undercut some of his key campaign messages this time around. For instance, Noble has levelled the charge that Chapman’s management style is too controlling and extends too far down the chain of command, but experienced managers may well read the story that follows as evidence of Chapman’s need to do exactly that, coming in, in order to improve the agency.

This unforced error does not mean Noble should be written off politically: If he does not prevail on May 2, he seems a likely candidate for another office in the future.

But some convention voters may balk because, as Chapman has said, the expectation of honesty and integrity is higher for the Sheriff’s Office than for most jobs: “We don’t just have to abide by the law. We have to abide by General Orders.”

So, about this rookie mistake. Who among us has not been tempted to don a persona and give it voice? Fulminating or complaining from the safety of anonymity: What finer of guilty pleasures can there be? Be cautious when holding forth on matters over which you someday wish to preside, of course. Like if you plan to get into a pitched and negative political campaign, and you plan to be the one pushing the negative angle, then you might want to be really, really non-specific in your anonymous statements.

So they don’t get traced back to you.

But in any case, the Loudoun County sock puppet story needs to be brought out into the open so it can be fully acknowledged, and put to bed. It will be useful for those interested in this particular campaign, and perhaps also for anyone attempting to balance puppetry and politics going forward.

Chapman, Noble and Frye are not the only characters in this tale. But they are the only ones made of flesh and blood.

Continue reading “The Sheriff Versus The Puppets”