Fairfax County Republican sheriff’s candidate Bill Cooper published a half-page ad in the Connection newspapers Friday, four days before the election, stating he was ”Supported by Deputies, Police Officers and Firefighters.” But he has not been endorsed by any deputies, officers or firefighters unions or associations, and several of those groups issued angry responses Saturday, as did incumbent Sheriff Stan Barry.
Cooper said he doesn’t claim any public safety group endorsements, though he did seek the backing of the Fairfax Deputy Sheriff’s Coalition. “What we are saying is we have support from members of those agencies,” Cooper said. “That ad is true. I didn’t even put Fairfax. It could be police officers from L.A. County for all he [Barry] knows.”
Kevin Pittman, president of the Fairfax deputies coalition, said, “Both myself and the presidents of the other public safety organizations are very disturbed by Mr. Cooper’s willful misrepresentation of the support he has received from the public safety organizations in Fairfax and elsewhere. Sheriff Barry has received the official endorsements of all public safety organizations authorized to endorse in political processes and that is due to the outstanding job he has done during his time as Fairfax County sheriff.”
Barry collected endorsements from 11 groups, including six public safety unions or associations. He also noted that in 10 community forums or debates, Cooper elected not to appear jointly with him at any of them. Cooper said he had better uses of his time than lightly attended debates.
Barry, a Democrat, has been sheriff for 12 years, after being a deputy for 20 years. Cooper was a deputy for nearly 23 years, retiring as a second lieutenant earlier this year.
Barry said, “I am not surprised by this tactic. His entire campaign has been based on trying to confuse the voters. He has launched baseless accusations about me and has avoided every opportunity to appear before the voters with me.”
Barry was referring to the criticism launched by the Fairfax County Republican Committee over his decision to enter the county’s deferred retirement program yet still run for reelection. He said the criticism exaggerated his salary, his benefits and his pension, and that he will receive no financial benefits. Cooper said the sheriff entered a retirement program with no intention of retiring.
John Niemiec, head of the Fairfax local of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said Cooper’s ad “implies that the union or the association is supporting you. That is extremely misleading and false.”
Edward Nuttall, lawyer for the Fairfax local of the Coalition of Police, said Cooper’s ad was “misleading and disingenuous. If you had somebody who worked for the federal government supporting you, would you put, ‘Supported by the U.S. Government’?”Officer Mike Scanlon, the Fairfax coalition’s president, wrote in September that “This endorsement is not one that we hand out. We took into consideration Sheriff Barry’s tenure as Sheriff and how he has worked with our department and his employees. We believe that Sheriff Barry is the better candidate.”
Daniel Kalbacher, a spokesman for the deputies’ coalition, said his group didn’t automatically side with Democrats: they also endorsed Republican John Cook in his race for Fairfax supervisor. He said Cook has not been claiming support from officers or firefighters, who didn’t endorse him.
Cooper, who is endorsed by a string of Republican officials including Gov. Bob McDonnell, said, “I’ve got more than half of the sheriff’s department that are supporting me. I have support from a bunch of firefighters and lots of police officers...Unlike some folks, we are doing everything on the up and up. We’ve run an honest campaign.”