In the interest of keeping facts straight, this seems like a good time to provide a brief overview and timeline of the “civility pledge” issue in the Republican contest for the Loudoun County Sheriff nomination. As more people begin paying attention to the candidates they are likely to see references to the controversy. For the benefit of voters and also the four campaigns, it is to everyone’s benefit that going forward our conversations reference facts rather than suppositions.

In the first comment to a recent discussion thread, a local blogger asked why one of the candidates had not yet signed the civility pledge, and implied she had inside information that the pledge had been forwarded to one of the other campaigns. During the further discussion on that post, we have seen the suggestion that certain parties are permitted to refer to the controversy when they think appropriate, while others who do so are guilty of causing a distraction.

Some clarification obviously is needed. Here are the basic facts:

In late February 2011, the Mike Chapman campaign sent out a direct mail postcard that included a chart purporting to compare the four candidates’ qualifications for the office of sheriff. This campaign mailer depicted Mike Chapman’s qualifications as superior to those of the other three candidates.

For those who have not seen it, the campaign postcard is featured prominently on Mike Chapman’s Web site. (For a full size version of the card, click here).

On February 28, 2011, Verne Dickerson addressed the Loudoun County Republican Committee and criticized the Chapman postcard. Mr. Dickerson’s speech is reprinted in full on his campaign Web site. Regarding the postcard, Mr. Dickerson said:

…let me take care of a troubling issue:

I received a hand-addressed postcard in the mail from an opponent this past week. In a race that all candidates pledged would be clean and positive, this opponent sunk to a new low, skewing the truth to smear fellow Republicans.

To the one responsible: Shame on you.

Loudoun County and the Republican Party deserve better from its public servants, especially those that espouse an upgrade in professionalism. As an actual long-time citizen of Loudoun, I warn you that Loudouners can spot a hypocrite when they see one…

I will not slam my fellow Republicans without provocation. After all, I value my integrity…

On March 8, 2011, the Mark Davis and Verne Dickerson campaigns announced their civility pledge in a joint press release which can be found on the Mark Davis campaign Web site:

Davis and Dickerson Call For Civility in the Republican Nomination Process for Sheriff

Middleburg, Virginia — March 8, 2011 – Republican Sheriff’s candidates Mark Davis and Verne Dickerson have made a public pledge to run clean, positive campaigns in the race to be the next Sheriff of Loudoun County. In a joint statement, the candidates committed to providing the citizens with the information needed to make an informed decision on Election Day without the filth.

“When the Republican candidates met in January, we made a pledge to keep our campaigns positive. Today the campaigns of Mark Davis and Verne Dickerson reaffirm that commitment.

“The people of Loudoun County know that the Sheriff’s Office needs a change. We believe that the decision to elect the next Sheriff of Loudoun County is too important to allow slander and attacks to muddle the race.

“We stand together to reject the type of negative campaigning that divides fellow Republicans and demoralizes the electorate.”

On the morning of March 19, 2011, as noted above, a local blogger suggested that the civility pledge had been sent to candidate Ron Speakman requesting he sign on to the pledge.

As of March 22, there is no mention of the civility pledge on either Mr. Speakman’s Web site or Mr. Chapman’s Web site.

While the Republican nomination for Loudoun County Sheriff likely will be determined by how well each of the candidates present themselves to potential voters and talk about a variety of issues, the controversy over the civility pledge boils down to the simple question of whether one believes the Mike Chapman campaign postcard deserves a reprimand.