Dan Carpenter: The Erratic Victim

On March 13, Tribune columnist Tom Fulks made some interesting points about voters eventually recognizing lies. He compared what’s happening in national politics — and the controversy surrounding Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump — to local politics, namely the District 3 race.

Many of my readers know that I’ve talked extensively about CalCoastNews, their obsession with District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill, and their desire to get him unelected — though I believe complete and unequivocal ruination is what they’re aiming for. What hasn’t been talked about as much is Dan Carpenter, currently serving on the San Luis Obispo city council. Carpenter is one of two opponents challenging Hill for his District 3 seat.

Truth be told, I don’t know what he stands for. Many know what he stands against, since he marketed himself as always being against someone or some issue.

He hasn’t showed anyone outside of his unconditionally supportive followers what he stands for — or what he could do better as county supervisor than the incumbent. His record isn’t entirely clear. Instead of elaborating on his positions, Carpenter relies on referring to Supervisor Hill as a “bully,” and refers to articles published by a website that he regularly contributes to.

In 2013, when I was looking into “Hometown Radio” host Dave Congalton’s hostile behavior on and off the air, I spoke with Carpenter on the phone. He struck me as congenial but agitated. I recalled speaking with Carpenter about how Congalton insulted him on the show, and that he felt the host was unfairly targeting Hill. He described Hill as “brash,” but aggressive when addressing one of Carpenter’s most passionate subjects: homelessness. At the time, Carpenter lamented Hill’s support for the proposed CAPSLO Homeless Center yet understood that Hill was “attacking the same problem I was attacking, but with different methodologies.”

I asked Carpenter about whether or not he agreed with Congalton’s assessment of Hill as being similar to famed American Depression-era outlaw Al Capone. He scoffed at the comparison, calling it “hyperbolic” and “unnecessary.” Carpenter complained that Congalton was “dumbing down” civil discourse with allegations and insults; that Carpenter resented the negative attacks going back and forth.

Since I last spoke with him, Carpenter made headlines for being testy and antagonistic as a San Luis Obispo city councilman. Many of his votes — much like the vote he cast against updating the general plan in Oct. 22, 2014 — were based entirely on personality clashes with fellow councilman John Ashbaugh.

“I really was on the fence until John broke the law of breaching the confidentially of closed session,” said Carpenter at the 2014 meeting. “Once he did that I was so angry I wasn’t going to support it. To me, if he was willing to go to that level to get his way, there is now way I was going to support it.”

Indeed, Ashbaugh violated the Brown Act by mentioning Carpenter’s closed session disposition. But Carpenter willingly tossed away the due diligence of city staff, presentations, reports and studies because Ashbaugh challenged him. Not a very principled decision. Yet here he is two years later, running against an incumbent supervisor who he’s described as negative and impulsive.

And it was Carpenter who chided two county supervisors — District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill and District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson — of pursuing an ideological agenda “in spite of the professional testimony and demonstration of facts.”

Carpenter (center) poses with District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold (left) and District 4 Supervisor Lynn Compton (right) at the March 4 Women’s Shelter Fundraiser at the Madonna Expo. (Source: Dan Carpenter for Supervisor 2016)

Carpenter was vocal in his opposition to city manager Katie Lichtig. He’s made his feuding public, occasionally leaking his heated email correspondence with her to the local media. His criticism of Lichtig struck me as odd, given his combative tone and eagerness to fling insults. It didn’t come across as professional. Even if he was right about Lichtig’s “overreaching” and “elitist” management of the city, he unarguably created tension among the council, staff and the community with no amicable resolution in mind. Carpenter opted to criticize Lichtig in lieu of a performance evaluation.

Carpenter’s behavior on the council led to a sharp rebuke from mayor Jan Marx. In a letter to SLO Life Magazine, Marx wrote that Carpenter votes “against people.”

“At times, he spends entire council meetings in dark and brooding silence. At other times, he launches into angry attacks against members of the public who have testified, against other council members, or against city staff,” wrote Marx. Carpenter doesn’t dispute Marx’s account, but insists he’s on the right side of the issues — that his argumentative dissent is just.

But when you take a step back and look at how Carpenter has contributed to the conversation, it shows he‘s incapable of solving problems. At this juncture, seeking greater political ambitions than city council is a severe miscalculation.

Now let’s look at his campaign for supervisor so far.

Carpenter appears at several Board of Supervisors meetings to watch as an audience member. He sits in the back row with his arms crossed, eyes rolling and disinterested. When I saw him in the chambers in Aug. 2015, Carpenter scoffed at some of the public comment speakers and shook his head. He looked like someone who was forced to run an errand, and listening to the public was a chore. I got the impression Carpenter would find a root canal more entertaining.

This is the same Dan Carpenter who uses the slogan “Character matters” for his campaign, and states that his “steady voice of common sense and pragmatic decision making” makes him electable.

One time, he spoke before public comment to discuss a threat reportedly communicated to him by Hill at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Nov. 2015. Carpenter appeared before the supervisors and asked the board to condemn Hill — without once mentioning he was running against him in a heated political race.

Carpenter described the supposed “unprovoked, despicable” threat of violence by Hill, which he classified as being typical of Hill’s “bullying and intimidating ways.” Carpenter described the threat, which he did not specify, “as nothing less than thuggery…embarrassing the host and ultimately your board and the entire county.”

He concluded his remarks by encouraging voters to “stop electing people like Mr. Hill who use their position as a license to abuse others.”

I shared a transcript of Carpenter’s speech with a number of local and state officials who agreed that he was electioneering. The speech by Carpenter was definitely political in nature, so I found his allegation to be suspect. I decided to look into it.

Carpenter said he was threatened by the supervisor at a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Coastal Community Builders on Nov. 17, 2015. At approximately 3 p.m., Hill allegedly told him, “You keep contacting my donors, and I am going to take you out in the field and kick your ass,” and he allegedly said this while pointing to a field “in front of several witnesses.”

I spoke to a number of witnesses who attended the event. Each person described Hill and Carpenter having a conversation, but no one could verify any threat being communicated; Carpenter didn’t communicate to anyone I spoke to that he was threatened or intimidated by Hill.

Next, I contacted law enforcement and asked if an incident report was taken or a police report was filed by Carpenter. Nothing.

Carpenter reportedly wrote to Hill later that day. “Because of your threatening (bodily harm) comments and posturing directed at myself today at a public gathering in Pismo Beach at approximately 3 p.m., you are advised to not have any physical, verbal, written, electronic, or other contact with myself or my family at any time in the future,” wrote Carpenter. “I encourage you take this warning seriously.”

Yet Carpenter didn’t feel that threatened when he showed up at Hill’s residence months later.

“Later [in Jan. this year] he came and canvassed our street, knocking on our door with his campaign materials,” wrote Hill’s wife Dee Torres-Hill on March 9. “Luckily no one was home so he was unable to instigate another phony allegation. He must have been very disappointed because he left a hand written note asking us to call him with questions. I called him (happily Adam was out of town) and asked him to keep this nonsense away from my kids and my house.”

Carpenter wanted to keep the “threat” narrative going, despite having no evidence to show that any threat was made. Though Hill formally declined to appear at a Jan. 28 candidates forum (according to the New Times), Carpenter’s campaign marketed the debate as if Hill was attending. When Hill didn’t show, debate organizer and CalCoastNews contributor Kevin P. Rice placed an empty chair between Carpenter and Peterson along with a name card and a water bottle for Hill.

In his February newsletter, Carpenter published an article written about the debate by conservative radio host Dick Mason. Coincidentally, Mason had accused Hill of harassing his daughter by email — but when he was prompted to provide the email as evidence, he said his daughter “deleted” it. Mason stated that “a burly plain clothes Sheriff’s deputy stood at the back door in case there was trouble. Supervisor Adam Hill has threatened with violence candidate Dan Carpenter.” Mason offered no attribution for his claim.

Since he first claimed he was threatened by Hill, Carpenter has lent his support to anonymous Facebook pages that disparage and threaten Hill, his wife, supporters and people they’ve identified as paid “Team Adam Hill” trolls. Carpenter and daughter Emily have “liked” and shared posts by these anonymous pages, which have spent thousands of dollars advertising CalCoastNews articles. Carpenter hasn’t condemned the actions of these pages, which reflect the “bullying” characteristics that he ascribes to Hill.

Shortly after Fulks’ column was published in The Tribune, Carpenter issued a statement decrying the “negative attacks” on his campaign, which included KVEC radio ads and “Tribune op-ed pieces by his cohorts.”

“I will continue to run a campaign based on facts and avoid the mischaracterizations and mistruths that the incumbent has chosen to include in his strategy,” said Carpenter. However, Carpenter never mentioned what the “mischaracterizations” and “mistruths” are. It’s anyone’s guess.

Dan Carpenter is continuing to play victim while negatively attacking his adversaries for being negative — all while his campaign is collapsing under the weight of hyperventilating irony. For all his angry antics, the unshaven, unkempt “underdog” continues to portray himself as the victim of “bullying” while insisting that he is the only voice of reason on the San Luis Obispo city council.

In reality, Dan Carpenter is the victim of his own victimhood. Whether he plays the role of a politician masquerading as a victimized, whiny outsider or a temperamental councilman who believes his many outbursts are virtuous, Carpenter is blazing a clear trail to his downfall.

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