“Let me make it very clear,” Sheriff Rick Staly said today in a brief statement issued as a letter to editors of local news media. “I have not endorsed and will not endorse any candidate for Palm Coast City Council.”
The statement mentions no name, but makes just as clear who it’s referring to: Alan Lowe, one of four candidates in the District 2 race for Palm Coast City Council. Lowe features on his Facebook page a 60-second video ad of Oliver North endorsing Lowe.
During the ad, North says Lowe will “work closely with my friend Rick Staly to ensure Palm Coast continues to be a safe community.” As he says so, the ad flashes a picture of Staly with his wife Debbie, North and Lowe, which could be seen–especially in that context–as implying that Staly supports Lowe. Cleverly, Lowe has the words “Lowe supports Sheriff Staly” imprinted on the image.
Several people, especially embattled candidates–whether Lowe, whose previous candidacies for office in Palm Coast did not go well, often because of his mischaracterizations, or Joe Mullins, the county commissioner, drop Staly’s name often or seek to get themselves framed in the same pictures to glum on to the sheriff’s popularity. Mullins is also featuring pictures of himself next to Gov. Ron DeSantis to imply an endorsement that does not exist.
“While I do know retired Lt. Colonel North and he has ridden on patrol with me and I consider him a friend,” Staly said in the statement, “we have not discussed election endorsements. Over the years I have taken photos with hundreds of residents and some photos, unfortunately, are now being used to imply an endorsement or support of particular candidates.” The statement was prompted after numerous residents contacted the sheriff “about social media campaign posts, photos, mailers and commercials involving candidates for the City of Palm Coast elections and whether or not I have endorsed city candidates for council.”
The law is clear, too: “It is unlawful for any candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”
Overall, Staly said, “our community and candidates have acted in a civil manner” in the ongoing primary election, which ends on Aug. 23. “Let’s keep it that way!”
It remains a mystery why Lowe would seek the endorsement of someone like North (or why even the sheriff would call North a friend). North, 78, was a staffer on Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council and was part of the orchestration of one of the most egregious spree of lawlessness from any White House: the illegal sale of weapons to Iran in the late 1980s, in exchange for American hostages held in Beirut. Reagan had claimed, falsely, that he would not negotiate with Iran. Meanwhile, proceeds from the sales were illegally channeled to guerillas known as Contras in Nicaragua, after Congress had banned supporting them. It became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, which shook the Reagan administration in its last years.
North testified to Congress during the Iran-Contra hearings that followed, gaining notoriety, was indicted on 16 felony counts and convicted on three of them, one of them for the destruction of evidence, to which he admitted. He was sentenced to a suspended prison term and probation before his conviction was overturned on a technicality: his testimony to Congress may have prejudiced witnesses at his trial.