Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wyoming LDS Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Ron Micheli Victimized By Media Misrepresentation, Triggering A Slide In Polls

Update August 18th: Ron Micheli finishes third with 26 percent of the vote. Matt Mead wins with 29 percent, while Rita Meyer finishes second with 28 percent. Full election results now available HERE.

Update August 16th: Ron Micheli surging in polls; endorsements pouring in from ordinary citizens. See updated post HERE.

Earlier in the Republican race to succeed Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, one could throw a blanket over top four Republican contenders Rita Meyer, Matt Mead, Colin Simpson, and rancher Ron Micheli, who happens to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But a Mason-Dixon poll from July 26-28 now indicates that Micheli has slipped to fourth with only 12 percent, while Meyer leads with 27 percent, Matt Mead has 24 percent, and Colin Simpson has 17 percent. Furthermore, the poll showed a higher-than-normal negative rating and a comparative lack of name recognition for Micheli. Rita Meyer did get a slight bump for a Sarah Palin endorsement, but being a Palin protégé can be a double-edged sword.

So what happened? Micheli's religion has not been an issue. Indeed, Micheli has taken pains to ensure the public that his religion would not be an issue, as outlined in this video:

The problem is media misrepresentation on two issues. First, Micheli has come under fire for a letter previously written by him allegedly pleading for leniency for convicted rapist Ty McDowell. McDowell pleaded guilty in June to breaking into the 25-year-old victim's west Casper residence, striking her repeatedly, then raping her before leaving her bound and naked on her living room floor in December 2009. McDowell was sentenced to 60 years to life in jail for this heinous crime. Because the Michelis had taught McDowell as a teenager in Sunday School, Micheli, at the behest of McDowell's lawyer, wrote a letter to Natrona County District Judge David Park as part of a character reference for a pre-sentence report asking him to take McDowell's past behavior, his desire to repent and make things right and the support he has from a supportive family into consideration in sentencing McDowell. In the letter, Micheli also acknowledged that Ty committed a serious crime and does not condone what he has done. Read the full letter HERE.

When the Michelis submitted their letter, they did so with the understanding that the court would consider it confidential and sealed. But the letter, as part of a public case, was in a public file and was soon picked up by the press. Immediately the Casper Star-Tribune jumped all over it and trumpeted it on their pages under the lurid headline "Micheli supports Craigslist rapist" (since toned down), which could only have been intended to inflame public opinion against Micheli. Subsequently, Micheli said his family is heartsick about the incident and complained about the media misrepresentation. "The (press) said we had no compassion for the victim," Micheli said. "That's not true. We feel for her, pray for her. We feel terrible. It (the letter) has been twisted to the point where we have been hurt in the long run." Nevertheless, though Micheli said his campaign has been hurt, he is still optimistic.

Obviously, Judge Park was not too impressed with Micheli's "character reference" since he sentenced McDowell to 60 years. I like the way Wyoming dispenses justice.

The second issue is the disclosure that Ron Micheli received over $132,000 in Federal agricultural subsidies for his family ranch from 1995 through 2009. Because Micheli has campaigned on cutting deficits and ending federal intrusion, naysayers started squawking about "hypocrisy". But Micheli had a ready explanation; he said more than half of the money was for drought disaster subsidies, which would be available to anyone else in the same predicament, and another $32,500 was used to help pay to move corrals away from a river at the Federal government's request. If the Feds ask you to make adjustments to your property for their own good, they have an obligation to help pay for it. Micheli does regard helping citizens respond to disasters as a legitimate and proper role for government.

The bottom line is that neither of these issues should be held against Ron Micheli. The media obviously exploited the Ty McDowell issue and blew it out of proportion. The decision to be rendered by Wyoming Republicans on August 17th should be based upon reason rather than emotion. Any of the four leading Republicans seem well-suited to take over Wyoming's top political job.

No comments: