Harry Johnston is like the ‘real’ Dirty Harry — one of good guys
by Marguerite Cline
May 22, 2014 10:20 PM | 3191 views | 2 2 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For 22 years, I held either city or county elected offices. In all that time, I have never seen such vicious attacks on some of the candidates as we had prior to Tuesday’s election. Namely, Commissioner Harry Johnston was the target.

In case there is anyone who was not attuned to what was happening in that race, Harry Johnston was running for re-election for the Post 1 Commissioner on the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.

His opponent was Steve West, a newcomer to the political scene.

In an upset, Steve won the election and I wish him well. Harry wished his opponent well, too, saying on election night after the results came in, “I do believe he was not the primary instigator in the negative attacks that were used against me.” He was referencing phone calls and advertisements against Harry’s candidacy.

There were many issues Steve’s supporters could have used, and they did, in their campaigning. They did not need to resort to personal attacks. Those issues were fair game for criticism.

The biggest issue was what has become known as the “Bobo Boondoggle.” Harry was a commissioner when that agreement was approved. Obviously, there were many big mistakes in how it was done. That was fair game.

Another was the Board of Commissioners’ decision not to build a library as was expected in the Macedonia-Free Home area. They explained that while the funds were available to construct the building, there was no money available to operate it. That decision was fair game, too.

Another was controversy surrounding the land use plan, zoning, etc. Again, criticisms about that were fair game.

But the culprits did not stop there. They also attacked his character. They used the name of a fictional hero played by actor Clint Eastwood in the movie of the same name, “Dirty Harry” Callahan.

On large signs they wrote things like “Boot Dirty Harry,” in reference to the highly controversial Ball Ground Recycling situation. To me, those signs suggested that Harry Johnston had taken money under the table.

Calling him “Dirty Harry” was what offended me most.

Actually, “Dirty Harry” Callahan was a fictional San Francisco Homicide Department detective. He was a hero who defended property and saved lives of the innocent, while frequently risking his own life. In other words, he was one of the good guys.

Harry, his wife, Rebecca, and I go to church together. We pray together, sing together and celebrate the birth of Christ and His Resurrection together. Harry Johnston is a Christian gentleman, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher and a member of the church choir.

He has acknowledged that he made some mistakes while on the Board of Commission. Most anyone who has served in elective office has made mistakes. But, taking bribes is not something he would do.

I have met Steve West a couple of times. He seemed like a nice enough guy. Friends of his have said Steve will not be the pawn of those who resorted to shameful tactics to ensure Harry would not be re-elected Those friends believe Steve will do what he thinks is right, even if it does cause controversy with his most avid political associates.

From experience, I know some campaign supporters can cause you as much grief as they can help. Personally, it was the Woodstock Postmaster that gave me more than one call about my supporters putting my brochures in people’s mailboxes. That was, and is, still illegal.

But what was I going to do? Before going to work each day, I would fill my car with campaign signs, etc., and park on the street near the office. I would not park at the office because that was on government property. Then I would leave the car unlocked. Each afternoon when I went back to the car to drive home, all my campaigns brochures were gone. I liked that.

So, the next morning, I would load up again and be delighted when the car was empty when working hours ended.

I had no idea who was getting them or who was putting them in mailboxes in their community.

So there I was — worrying no one in the Woodstock Post Office would vote for me and I might be facing a fine and some unneeded negative publicity. But not knowing who was doing the deed on my behalf, I did not know how to stop it.

But, not once, in those 22 years was my character attacked.

Perhaps that is what happened to Steve West. Over anxious supporters became zealots and went too far in their actions.

Let us hope vicious campaigns will not become the norm for future elections in Cherokee County. Hopefully, candidates will concentrate on the issues and not resort to personally attacking their opponents.

Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
West bad too
May 25, 2014
He can claim he doesn't want to be a politician but Steve West was so anxious to win that he allowed and even encouraged, the likes of Carolyn Cosby etc. He allowed them to lie and he lied on his web site about the Bobo deal. He claimed it was, not just a deal that went bad with the economic downturn, but something Harry supported to help his employer. I'm not clear how that was suppose to work. He can play nice now, but he was as vicious as I have ever seen.
May 24, 2014
I received a robocall prior to the election from Ms. Cline on Harry's behalf, saying that "Harry is head and shoulders above Steve West". Does that qualify as a not so subtle attack on Mr. West's character or was she just noting that Harry might be taller?
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