Sheriff's candidate explains "brownshirts" comment

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, October 9, 2010
— Rock County sheriff candidate Gary Keller on Friday said he doesn’t think deputies are brownshirts, a reference to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi storm troopers.

“People during the campaign have been telling me that they feel some of them have been acting like a bunch of brownshirts,” Keller said. “I just want the people to know that I’m hearing that from the citizens. The citizens are the ones giving me that information. I don’t believe that.”

Keller’s brownshirt comment came during a candidate forum Thursday at Hedberg Public Library. He said he was making the point that the sheriff’s office could benefit more from a relationship with the public, rather than from technology.

Keller said a dozen people told him deputies were brownshirts while he was campaigning. He said that indicated to him that the sheriff’s office needed to improve its relationship with residents.

Keller said his experience with deputies has been good.

“The ones I know, they would bend over backwards to help people,” Keller said. “They go out of their way to help citizens.”

The brownshirt comment was the most heated exchange during the forum. Incumbent sheriff candidate Bob Spoden responded immediately.

“I found that a little distasteful that you referred to our deputies as brownshirts, and I can tell you that the men and women of the sheriff’s office are dedicated and work very hard for our community,” Spoden said. “They care about our community, and they work many hours of overtime. They’re parents, they’re moms and dads, and to say that they’re brownshirts, I think, is not appropriate.”

Spoden, 227 Jefferson Ave., Janesville, a Democrat, and Keller, 10520 W. County A, Evansville, a Republican, will face off Nov. 2. Keller also challenged Spoden in 2006, running as an independent in that race.

Spoden has been sheriff since 2006. Keller is a former Brodhead police officer.

Last updated: 3:17 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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