Politics, as most Americans realize all too well, is dog-eat-dog business.
The antics involved in the campaign have led to accusations of all kinds as opponents of many races seek to denigrate and dishonor each other via often increasing levels of vitriol.
In the past, vitriol and accusations were primarily reserved for those seeking election, with the expected level of support among voters also mixed with rumors and insinuations of alleged acts that rendered their opponent unworthy of exercising their powers. functions.
Increasingly, with the aid of computers and the wide array of social media graphics and influence available to the average person, these attacks have shifted to some among the voters themselves.
And their accusations, sometimes backed up by fabricated documents, can often make the difference before anyone challenges their truth or viability.
Montana is not immune to such attacks.
“They’re sending documents and other false accounts of a person’s life,” said Christopher Stough, a recent candidate for Sanders County sheriff who says he’s been the target of such attacks. “That’s the M/O of these people, that’s what they do.”
These attacks, Stough said, are often last-minute attempts to derail a campaign. Nationally, it is known as an “October Surprise”.
Stough said he went through the process this year as he unsuccessfully sought to qualify for the Sheriff’s Race Finals. And while he doesn’t blame his end this year on a series of rumors and attacks he says he has suffered over the past few months, he called the attacks “criminal libel”.
Rumors have swirled for several months about at least one sheriff candidate who reportedly had a lengthy arrest record for everything from DUI incidents to aggravated assault to traffic offences. And family members, Stough said, are not spared abuse.
Another sheriff candidate allegedly had pictures of him on a motorcycle extending his middle finger as the reason he would be unfit for public office.
“It can be very derogatory,” Stough said. “This same thing happened two years ago when I ran for office in Sanders County. Again this year, a guy shows up with documents accusing me of everything, none of which are true.
During this year’s campaign, Stough claimed he was stalked by a former associate and ex-husband of Stough’s current wife. The alleged accuser, Raymond Kree Kirkman, who came to national attention several years ago for using a bulldozer to level the house he and his future ex-wife lived in, has become a continuing source of at least some charges. , said Stough.
Raymond, formerly of Washington State, is now a resident of the Heron area in northwest Sanders County, the same general area in which Stough currently resides.
On the Monday evening before this year’s election, the Valley Press received an email containing two attachments which, when printed, appeared to be official legal documents detailing numerous arrests on numerous charges allegedly racked up by Stough then. that he had been living in Larimer County, Colorado for several years since.
When the authenticity and veracity of the documents were researched by Valley Press through the Colorado and Montana State Departments of Records, all categories of possible criminal or civil acts against Stough were found to be false. No convictions or incarcerations of any kind came up during the search of records.
“We are in the process of pursuing civil and criminal proceedings against this individual,” Stough said. “I had never run for a job until two years ago and didn’t really want to run this year until I spoke with several influential people who said I would be a good fit. candidate”.
Currently employed with the Ministry of Defence, Stough said he was unsure whether to run again.
Meanwhile, Kirkman has been ordered by the courts to stay away from Stough and his family. Stough alleges that Kirkman repeatedly violated those orders.
Stough is quick to admit that several years ago he was arrested by police on suspicion of driving under the influence, but those charges were dropped. Case reports obtained by Valley Press support this claim.
In the meantime, Stough said he and others who have faced such unsubstantiated accusations are going to have to fight back and “nip this stuff in the bud.”
“I’m pretty resilient,” he said. “Not being sheriff of Sanders County is not going to define my life. I don’t know if I’ll run again, there’s a pretty toxic environment with that stuff in Sanders County.”
He added: “The battles in this county are breathtaking.”