By all accounts, May 4 was a fairly average Friday evening for Bonner County, Idaho sheriff candidate Shaun Winkler. There was a barbecue on his compound. His friends and family gathered to hear him speak. And once night rolled around, a big wooden cross was rolled out and set ablaze.
While, typically, Winkler tells the paper that cross burnings are private affairs - held approximately once a month - last Friday he and his Klan brethren apparently decided to make an exception, allowing outside observation and inviting the press.
Did it help his candidacy?
Oh, probably not, but he doesn't seem terribly concerned. And given Bonner County's reputation for rampant racism and Aryan Nations activity, it probably didn't hurt it as much as you might (hope) expect.
From the Coeur d'Alene Press:
Despite the unpopularity of his racial views, Winkler is soldiering on with his sheriff's candidacy. On Monday, he participated in a candidates forum at the Blanchard Community Center. He continued to insist his Ku Klux Klan ties would not impact his performance as sheriff or make him susceptible to racial profiling. Instead, he would focus on tough stances regarding drugs and alcohol.
"Most people don't know that we don't just oppose the Jews and the negroes," he said. "We also oppose sexual predators and drugs of any kind."
Winkler added that if he had his way, perpetrators of sexual crimes would be hung immediately.
Really, though, perhaps we're being too tough on poor Mr. Winkler. Maybe he's just another unfortunately misunderstood bigot living life in northern Idaho the only way he knows how ... burning crosses and being appallingly racist.
Of the cross burning, the Coeur d'Alene Press notes:
That particular action, Winkler predicted, would be the source of much misunderstanding.
"Mainstream society looks at cross lighting as a symbol of hate, but it predates the Klan by hundreds of years," he said. "We look at it more as a religious symbol."
For a touch of sanity, the paper also interviews Brenda Hammond, secretary for the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force, who says not all people in the county are blaring racists like Winkler.
Good to know.
The Boise Weekly notes that Winkler is competing with incumbent Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and Ponderay Police Officer Tim Fry for the Republican nomination - with the primary winner moving on to face independent Rocky Jordan in the general election this November.