Bill Hunt, a conservative Republican candidate hoping to lead the Orange County Sheriff's Department, tonight blasted The Orange County Register for allegedly botching his response to a recent call from OC Republican boss Scott Baugh that all GOP candidates should reject endorsements and contributions from public employee unions.
According to Hunt, veteran Register columnist Frank Mickadeit erroneously reported on January 19 that he, Hunt, "stood up" at a GOP central committee meeting and stated he'd "abide by the Baugh mandate," a claim Hunt says was "copied and recirculated as if this assertion was true."
In an e-mail tonight to supporters, Hunt said that Mickadeit's "assertions are completely incorrect and a misinterpretation of the statements I made and the positions I hold."
Mickadeit, who has reduced his work at the Register while he attends Chapman Law School classes, hailed Baugh's anti-union idea as original and courageous (but not necessarily right).
Hunt, who is likely to win support from the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS)--the county's largest and most powerful law enforcement lobby, says Baugh's proposal would have a "chilling" effect on free speech rights in elections.
Hunt also noted that he contacted Mickadeit on January 23 for a retraction but didn't get a response.
Mickadeit told me this evening that he's been covering a complicated criminal trial and indeed owes Hunt a returned call. He said he will make a sincere effort to review his notes "to see if I made any mistakes."
"If I was wrong, I will definitely apologize," said Mickadeit. "But I do remember that Scott Baugh asked everyone in the audience who believes in his idea to stand up. Bill Hunt stood up for 10 or 15 minutes and when he spoke he said that he's been saying the same thing for five years. He got a lot of applause for saying that."
In his e-mail, Hunt says his statements solely addressed reckless government spending and not suppressing public unions.
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"Scott Baugh doesn't speak for me," Hunt told me in a phone interview tonight. "He's new to reform. What I was telling him that night was: welcome to the party. He's been the hypocrite. He's trying to make the deputies' union the enemy. That's crazy. If he's upset with what AOCDS has earned then he should blame all the Republicans he helped put on the board of supervisors that approved the [early deputy retirement] deals. Now, all of sudden, when an outsider like me could get their endorsement, he pulls this. It's incredible."
Mickadeit said he will address the controversy in an upcoming column.
Along with Anaheim Deputy Police Chief Craig Hunter, Hunt--a former high ranking OCSD deputy--is challenging Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who was the appointed choice to finish sheriff-turned-convicted-felon Mike Carona's term in office.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly