Partisan divide in sheriff’s contest



September 7, 2016 - 12:00 AM

An unusual aspect of Mike Aronson’s campaign for Allen County sheriff is the support he is receiving as an independent candidate from the Republican Party’s county committee. That the support was initiated before the Aug. 2 primary election bucks political convention even more. Three Republicans, including an incumbent, were on the ballot.
Incumbent Bryan Murphy won by a narrow margin over Jared Froggatte, Iola police detective, in the primary. Kelley Zellner, Humboldt resident and chief of police in Conway Springs, was a distant third.
GOP county committee members Virginia Macha and Jim Talkington were two of the local higher-ups who supported Aronson’s petition to get on the Nov. 8 ballot as an independent.
Talkington is GOP chairman and Macha vice chairman.
While Talkington merely signed the petition, Macha took a more active role garnering signatures. Macha also serves as a Kansas delegate and was at this summer’s Cleveland convention.
Talkington said his decision to support Aronson’s petition effort was because, “We (he and Aronson) have a personal and professional relationship, and in small towns people wear many hats.” He viewed his support as “an individual and not on behalf of the (Republican) party.”
Talkington added that having his name on the nominating petition “doesn’t mean I’m giving my vote that way. I don’t know who I’ll vote for.”
Having held the county Republican committee chairmanship for “eight to 10 years may be enough,” Talkington said. “It may be time for new blood.”
Macha did not reply to the Register’s numerous attempts to reach her, but did announce her support for Aronson via Facebook on Monday.

REPUBLICANS overtly opposing other GOP candidates is not an anomaly in today’s political environment. Gov. Sam Brownback paved the way in 2012 when he turned on several incumbent Republican candidates known for their moderate bent. The most respected of those was Steve Morris, president of the Senate. The result is today’s overtly conservative Legislature that marches in lockstep with Brownback’s tax-cutting agenda.
The same can be said for the national arena.
Donald Trump won the GOP nomination against more than a dozen candidates, essentially all characterized as traditional Republicans. His campaign before and since the party’s convention has been far from a hand-in-glove fit to Republican principles.
So, the Register wonders, does the support of two Allen County Republican Committee leaders for an “outsider” make them turncoats or is it a wave of the future?

ARONSON said “several people, not just a couple,” encouraged him to run for sheriff.
“‘Why not run for sheriff?’ several of them asked me,” Aronson said in an interview with the Register on Aug. 24.
The encouragement spurred Aronson to launch a petition drive as an independent, which produced more than enough signatures for his name to be placed on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Aronson took on with the Iola Police Department after his departure with the Allen County Sheriff’s department on June 23. It’s his second stint with the IPD, leaving there in November 2015.
The deadline to file as a party candidate was June 1; independents had until Aug. 1to file. County Clerk Sherrie Riebel said Aronson was registered as an independent well before his petition drive and eventual candidacy.
“It’s ironic that I’m independent politically,” Aronson quipped. “My grandmother (Virginia Wille) was a Democrat,” and a prominent one. She was a delegate to the Democratic Convention in 1984. “We also have strong Republicans in our family.”
Aronson said it was only after his petition drive became common knowledge that Macha contacted him. “She offered advice and to help with the petitions. I respect her for going to bat for me.”
Mitch Sigg also jumped on board Aronson’s effort.

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