Threats against politicians lead to fewer running for office
MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — The threats against politicians and people running for office are called “unprecedented” as Election Day nears, a week from Tuesday night.
Berkeley Brean: “Have you faced threats before as a public official?”
Mark Assini, candidate for Monroe County Executive: “Yes, I have had two threats against my life.”
County Executive Adam Bello has been threatened, too. There’s a man in jail right now accused of threatening to kill him.
Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean has been looking into why so few people are running for office this year. The threat of violence is a reason.
According to a researcher, the last 10 years have seen a spike in threats and actual violence against politicians.
One of them happened when our camera was recording: Rep. Lee Zeldin was attacked by a retired soldier while he campaigned for governor last year. Assini came to his assistance.
When Assini was town supervisor in Gates, he says his life was threatened twice.
Berkeley Brean: “What kind of impact did that have on you?”
Mark Assini: “Well, it certainly made me more vigilant and aware of my surroundings but as an elected official you can’t wall yourself off from the public. So I still kept my door open all day.”
Raymond Girard is in the Monroe County Jail charged with making a terroristic threat. He’s accused of threatening to kill Executive Bello.
“What becomes frightening is when someone who has the means and the ability to carry out a dangerous act against you and then tells you they’re going to do it, that can be very unsettling,” Bello said.
Geoffrey Irwin is in jail, accused of threatening to shoot a judge in Penfield.
News10NBC pored through years of election files in Monroe county. Twelve years ago, 48 percent of the races were uncontested, with no challenger. This year, it’s up to 61 percent.
For the first time in three decades, the Democratic Party couldn’t find a candidate to run against Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley.
“And we asked close to a dozen folks if they were interested or they wanted to. But there’s a lot happening with our environment in our politics that makes it really, really difficult for somebody to make that leap,” said Stephen DeVay, chair of the Monroe County Democratic Committee.
Seamus Hughes, a counter-terrorism researcher at the University of Nebraska, went through thousands of federal cases and found what he called an unprecedented spike in threats of violence against public officials and people running for office. He tweeted the latest one this afternoon.
Berkeley Brean: “Does this have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to run for public office?”
Seamus Hughes, University of Nebraska at Omaha, National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education: “Absolutely it has a chilling effect. We see this as basically the slow burn of democracy. Individuals who would run for elected office at the local level, whether it would be election officials or sheriff or county council members, are not raising their hands.”
The Monroe County Board of Elections list of candidates for November, found on the website, includes the home addresses of every candidate. The state says that is not required by law. The address of a candidate is required on the petitions that people sign, and those are public — and your address as a voter is public through the Board of Elections, too.