Vic Regalado sat in the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center Friday night, nodding along as questions — some in Spanish but most in English — were posed to him about his campaign commercial some have called threatening to Hispanics.
In the adjacent room was a small library with brick walls and book sections like “Coming out,” “Lesbian Fiction,” and “Erotica.” An unusual setting for a Republican sheriff candidate, but, after all, it’s been an unusual race.
— Vic Regalado (@Vic4Sheriff) February 14, 2016
The commercial, according to some, fosters the perception among undocumented Hispanics that law enforcement is out to get them, rather than protect them. In it, Regalado said he will “fight illegal immigration,” a “personal” battle for him, since his parents immigrated to the country legally, or, as he refers to it, as “the right way.”
That resulted in a tense showdown Friday, and a communication gap that saw the would-be sheriff tangle with a group of about 30 people, mostly Hispanic, who saw his ad more as a threat than a campaign promise. (As sheriff, Regalado would be in charge of a jail that holds hundreds of illegal immigrants yearly, some of whom are eventually deported.)
As far as controversies go, “commercial-gate” might have merely been a blip on the radar were it not for the timeframe in which it took place.
Instead, it became the latest bit of drama to play out since Regalado began to emerge as a frontrunner to replace departed longtime Sheriff Stanley Glanz, indicted on two misdemeanors The last few months have been filled with strife for Regalado, a former homicide investigator who is now a TPD Gang Unit supervisor and GOP sheriff candidate.
He’s been criticized for how much money he raised campaigning (a staggering amount that neared $160,000,) for who gave him the money, for taking part in the ‘buying rank’ controversy at TPD, for missing out on an “accountability forum,” and most recently, for the campaign commercial.
Regalado said he knew the attention was coming, and that he would be faced with tough questions and a high level of scrutiny as the sheriff field narrowed.
“Even though I anticipated it, to say it hasn’t been difficult would be not the complete truth,” he said Friday following his meeting with the Dreamers. But such is life for political hopefuls, even neophytes to the role such as Regalado.
He said he felt that the questions he’s been asked by reporters have all been fair, but that he feels his answers have been, at times, distorted.
When it was revealed that he had raised considerably more money than any of his political opponents seeking the Republican nod, and that some of the top donors had previous ties to the Glanz regime, Regalado responded that he had not promised anyone a job.
The Frontier reported that some of his major donors came from one Rogers County industrial factory, that some were not registered to vote and that one had a previous felony he had no paid court costs for. (Regalado called it the equivalent of “racial profiling.” Many of the donors were Hispanic.)
The missed “accountability forum?” He had a scheduling conflict, he said. Paying a supervisor at TPD to retire? His official position is that he earned the promotion (he tested well enough to make the list,) and paying a supervisor to retire before the list expired wasn’t outlawed (though it may eventually be.)
Despite winning in a landslide during the March 1 Republican primary, Regalado has spent much of the past two months responding to one controversy after another.
“I think it’s all been fair questions, the problem is that the explanations have not been put out there the way they’ve been given. … In some media outlets, I don’t think (my side of the story) has been fairly reported, and that’s OK. That’s another fact of life, and I’m OK with that.”
And it’s possible the drama might not stop soon.
Regalado squares off April 5 with Rex Berry, a democrat and former TPD cop who worked for years in Iraq training police there. If Regalado wins the special election, he will take office April 11, and then face Republican challengers again about two months later in the primary for the full term election in November.
At least two of his previous opponents from the March 1 Republican primary (Dan Miller and Luke Sherman, also TPD officers,) have indicated they plan to seek the full four-year term in November. Regalado said last week he feels some of the negative press was “political posturing.”
“I think I’ve done a great job of addressing the many issues that have been thrown at me,” he said. “I do believe a lot of them, if not most of them, were political posturing from my opponents.
“And I get that. It’s a political campaign and you’ve got to have thick skin.”
If he wins April 5, wins again in June, wins a potential runoff in August and then wins in November, he might be looking at seven more months of that action compounded by the fact that he would be at the helm of a sheriff’s office in desperate need of guidance.
“I will have to find a balance,” he said. “But, you know, I think one will take care of the other. If I’m elected, I’ve got a plan of what I’m going to do. I think one will take care of the other, and if not, you know, we’ll deal with it.”