We arranged the following interview (below the fold) with Republican candidate for Sheriff Greg Ahlemann after he requested that we correct the record regarding a pseudonymous comment made on our blog. The comment, to this post about one of the anti-gay ads run by his father, Pastor Jay Ahlemann, contained the statement that Greg is “homophobic and racist” and has a tattoo that he doesn’t want anyone to see.
Greg approached Equality Loudoun at the Leesburg 4th of July parade, introduced himself, and showed his tattoo (which he describes as “kind of a logo for my life”) to some of our members. However, even people who have seen it have questions about the meaning of the tattoo, and different rumors continue to appear in other venues. I suggested to Greg that the best thing for him to do would be to show that he isn’t hiding anything, and invited him to explain what it means to him. I did ask him for permission to post a photo. He declined, with the rationale that anyone could grab the photo from our website and use it out of context. That seems to me to be a very reasonable concern.
Lacking a photo, here is a description: The tattoo covers his left forearm, and consists of, from left to right, an Israeli flag, a cross, and an American flag. Underneath are the words “Just Stand.”
Some of Greg’s supporters have tried to squelch any discussion of what this symbol might mean by saying that it represents his faith and that should be the end of it. In particular, this commenter illustrates why that is problematic:
David, I fly the Stars and Bars (First National, second version of the flag of the Confederacy). If you saw that, would you start a rumor that I was pro-slave/anti-Negro? If you talked to me and I told you that I am just a good ol’ Southern boy, would you then invite me to explain the flag flying on you site? If I have explained to you what it stands for, the issue is dead…There is no hidden “klan” tendencies, anti-American beliefs or racial bigotry.
The answer to his first question is no – just as I did not start the rumor about Greg Ahlemann, I would not start a rumor about him, whoever he is.
The answer to his second question is yes. If he were a public figure who had been anonymously attacked on our blog, I would invite him to explain his understanding of the symbol he has chosen to display, and what it means to him. That would simply be fairness to him.
However, the problem in his thinking is revealed by the statement that once he has declared what the symbol means to him, “the issue is dead.” Symbols can mean different things depending on one’s standpoint, the Confederate flag being an excellent example. For this person, the flag may signify heritage, or whatever it is he means to convey by the phrase “good ol’ Southern boy.” It is entirely possible that for him, personally, there are no “hidden ‘klan’ tendencies, anti-American beliefs or racial bigotry,” and yet that the display of this symbol conveys those very ideas to someone else. To an African-American person who has experienced the racial violence and oppression that has haunted the American South in the last century, the flag may signify terrorism. They are very different subjective experiences of the same symbol.
The symbol on Greg’s arm has led some people to accuse him of being a “religious extremist.” Indeed, that specific combination of elements has been adopted by a political movement that welcomes escalation of the conflict in the Middle East and sees the U.S. as engaged in a Holy War. To understand this reaction, please watch this video recorded during the July conference of Christians United for Israel. There is a vicious strain of homophobia associated with this movement, too; pay attention to the t-shirt the man at the end of the video is wearing.
Please understand that I am NOT suggesting that Greg Ahlemann shares these views; he speaks for himself about his beliefs in the interview. What I am saying is that there are valid reasons for some people to be alarmed by the tattoo – especially in the context of Jay Ahlemann’s ads and statements.
I have a lot of respect for Greg for his willingness to sit down with us and talk about these issues. He probably will lose some points with the hardcore anti-gay extremists just for doing that. He has also agreed to check back here and answer questions – so if you have any, please leave them as comments.
Q: Let’s start by talking about your tattoo. When did you get it, how old were you, and what were the circumstances that led you to express yourself in this way?
A: It was a little over a year and a half ago, back in April of 2006, and really, a lot of the inspiration behind it came from the premature birth of my daughter.
[Greg and his wife, Kim, here describe the ordeal of being told that she would never be able to become pregnant again, initiating the process to adopt a baby from China, then becoming pregnant and being told that she would never be able to carry this baby to term.]
..The doctors were telling us, you know, you might want to consider aborting the pregnancy, and we were like, no, we don’t believe in that, so we’re going to see what happens, you know, and trust God with it, and so, the water broke at 27 weeks…our daughter was born at 27 and a half weeks, she weighed two pounds, I could put her in my hand. Her lung collapsed the second day [after] she was born. They came and woke us up in the middle of the night, and basically said, come and say goodbye to your daughter, we’re going to do a blood transfusion, but we don’t know if she’s going to make it…so, she spent two months in the hospital, and today, she’s perfect. But it was during that time that, really, it was a reality check for me, even though I’d been a Christian for most of my life. I looked at, you know, what’s important to me – I’d been at the Sheriff’s office for nine and a half years, and I thought that…being a cop, being a motorcycle officer was – that’s part of who I was, and like a lot of officers, I think they take that as kind of who they are: whatever your job is, your occupation. And it just helped me realize that the job wasn’t that important to me. And I started seeing things at the Sheriff’s Office that I disagreed with, and I became more outspoken with it, and that’s never a good thing in that kind of a paramilitary organization – you’re supposed to follow, don’t ask questions, just do it.
At that point, with seeing what happened with my daughter, I just realized life’s too short for me to just…if I think something’s wrong, I’d rather leave. So the ‘logo,’ so to speak, was just based on, I’m a God and Country guy, and a patriot as far as the country goes. The Jews are God’s chosen people, and if you believe in the Bible, Genesis 12:3 talks about “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curse thee”…so I’m kind of, I guess, the label would be a Christian Zionist…where a lot of Christians are really very pro-Israel and Jew, and the cross, the cross kind of ties the two together, even though the Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah, to me it really signifies tying the two together, that you know, our country was once a country founded on Christian, Judeo-Christian values, but I don’t know that it is anymore. But I try to tie the two together, and I asked my Dad… I was telling him what I was going to do, and he was like, you’re 35 years old, what are you getting a tattoo for? …anyway, what I was trying to say, you know, standing up for Israel, standing up for what I believe, my faith, and standing up for the country, you know, when people bash the country, just trying to have kind of a motto for my life, that I wanted to inspire me, and I asked him for a Bible verse, and he gave me Ephesians 6:13…it talks about putting on, you know, “Therefore, take unto you the whole armor of God,” you know, at the end of the day, just stand, is what it is, so no matter what happens, after you do all you can do, at the end you just stand for what’s right.
Q: That’s interesting, because [your Dad] for his “Return to Righteousness” show seems to have adopted that same logo. Is that something he got from you? Because my assumption was that you got it from him – was it the other way around?
A: It’s funny, because I came up with the design, and he gave me the Bible verse a year and a half ago, when we did this…for Return to Righteousness I think he had a different logo…I think they’re actually going to change the name of it to “Stand Up America” or “Just Stand America” or something like that…I guess it’s, he’s kind of taking, stealing it from me. So that’s kind of a separate issue, but that was kind of the motivation behind it, that’s how I tried to conduct myself throughout the campaign, and just in every aspect of my life…and you know, whether people agree with you on things or not, I’ve realized you’re not going to make everybody happy, so you have to stand for what you believe in.
Q: So this is a very personal meaning for you…but you mentioned Christian Zionism. Do you consider yourself, are you associated with any…I mean, this is a political movement that’s associated with the End Times prophecy…
A: Well, I certainly believe in Revelations. I’m a Christian, I go to Cornerstone Chapel here, and they’re just a basic Bible-believing church, and they preach the Bible from, actually the way they do it is neat because I’ve never been in a church that does this, but they preach from Genesis through Revelations, and they just work, every week, through a few different chapters, and so it’s not something that they’re hyped up on and that they push, particularly, it’s more my own personal views…so I don’t know that I would call it a political movement; there may be people who politicize it, but I do believe that the Jews and Israel, based on what the Bible says and things in Revelations, those are God’s chosen people…so I don’t know if that helps answer…
Q: You’re familiar with [Pastor] John Hagee…one of the groups I’m thinking of is Christians United for Israel, where they are calling for an immediate strike against Iran, and it seems to be based on the idea that the Second Coming can’t happen until certain things happen in the Middle East, [with regard to] control of the Holy Land…
A: So they’re trying to expedite that?
Q: Exactly. And that’s the only similar thing to your tattoo that I’ve seen, those three symbols combined, has been associated with that.
A: Actually, one of my friends who was in the military…they were stationed somewhere over in Israel, they had, not exactly like mine, but they actually had the two flags together, you know, the Israel and the U.S. flag, and then I put the cross in there with it…so you know, politically, the Middle East has always been and always will be, you know, infighting, and I’m certainly fully supportive of Israel, just based on my religious beliefs…
Q: So, yeah, that was the thing that I had heard when I started looking into what do these elements combined mean…and then you had said something [on a blog] in the comment where you asked us to correct the record on this, you said something about, it wasn’t clear what you were referring to, the comment that was made on our blog, or something about the post that was anti-Semitic. I’m not sure I understand what you meant by that.
A: The post, when you google my name, comes up, something about Greg Ahlemann is anti-gay and racist…and so I clicked on that, and I know that wasn’t posted by you, but somebody posted on there, and so I was trying to figure out, where, why would people say I’m anti-gay and racist…and because they refer to my tattoo – ask him to roll up his sleeve and show his tattoo – the only thing I can think of, that if you’re racist, is that you’re against the Jews, you’re anti-Semitic. Because in my support of the Jewish plight, if you’re calling that racist, that I support them, then are you saying you’re anti-Semitic? And so, I wondered where they grab those things…I’ve heard all kinds of rumors, and this is where the politics get ugly, when people say, talk about his tattoo – maybe he’s got some kind of racist tattoos on his arms, why won’t he show them. And I just feel like it’s not professional for me to be out there to campaign, you know, when I campaign I don’t go out there and try to tell people, hey, I’m a Christian, I want you to vote for me. While it’s very much a part of who I am, it doesn’t necessarily…people aren’t going to decide who they vote for based on whether or not I’m a supporter of Israel or I’m a Christian. So, you know, I don’t push that out in people’s face.
Q: The other reason I was asking about that is that, also in the same comment, he talks about, he accuses your father of being anti-Muslim. And I wasn’t here back when he started the other church [Christian Fellowship in Ashburn], but he was making those kinds of references. How do you think the Muslim community would see, I mean if they saw your tattoo? Is that something you’ve ever run into?
A: I’ve never run into that, in fact I used to go to restaurants all the time when I was with the Sheriff’s office that were run by, you know, I don’t know how much practicing they were, but they were Muslim. And I’m friends with them, in fact they give out my information at their restaurant, they have [my] sign at Omia’s, you know, I’ve known these guys for years, and I don’t think they’ve ever felt that I’ve not been friends with them, or had any kind of agenda against them. You know, I certainly don’t want to make my race a religious, a battle of religions. People that are of Islamic faith, or Jewish faith or Christian faith, if I’m elected Sheriff I’ll treat them the same way and protect their rights the same way if they believe exactly the way I do or not, it doesn’t matter.
Q: Have you been to the ADAMS Center and talked to those folks at all?
A: I haven’t, I haven’t. And I didn’t go to, the only one I probably should have gone to, but I had something scheduled was the one they had at Lake Fairfax [the Northern VA Family and Civic Picnic]. I didn’t go to that, but I heard about it. But I have no problem as far as meeting and talking with anyone…there’s no bias on my part…I mean, I believe differently…I certainly am opposed to any kind of – which I think most Muslims are – opposed to any kind of terrorism, and you know, I think we’re all in agreement on that. I think a lot of Islam gets a bad name, so to speak, because of a few bad apples who want to push their agenda, just like Christianity through the years has done when they’ve forced, by death, you know, the Crusades…so I think you can make those assessments, at least…but I’ve never had anyone comment on it, or think that I’ve treated them differently because of my tattoo.
[Kim: You had a conversation with the owner of Omia’s just about that – he said that even though our religions aren’t the same, he says you’re my friend, I consider you my friend, and you will always be my friend, and you know, that’s very endearing to hear, from somebody of a different faith, that they can love you just as much as anybody else.]
Q: It’d be nice to see more of that in the world. Anything else you’d like to say about your tattoo?
A: No, not really.
Q: I’d like to talk with you a little about community policing. In the interview with Sheriff Simpson on Loudoun Force, he talks about it as a philosophy, that you want to establish relationships with different entities in the community like homeowners associations, community groups, and work in cooperation with those groups in order to solve problems. Is that consistent with the way you see it, your approach to community policing?
A: I think that is pretty much, if you look up community policing, that’s probably the definition. In actuality, is that what we have at the Sheriff’s Office? I don’t think so. We have, there’s a couple different models of community policing you can go with. You can go with what we have, which is designated officers – I think we have about ten of them, assigned to different areas, or you can go with, what some departments do is just department-wide, they don’t designate specific officers as ‘ok, you’re a community policing officer for this area.’ I think that we’re kind of trying to do both, and neither one of them is very effective. And why I say that is that if we’re going to do it the way we have it now, where we have assigned community policing officers, assigned to, say, Ashburn Village, that person should be the liaison between that community and the rest of the department, not the sole fix-all for everything. So when you call him and say ‘hey we’ve got speeders in a school zone on Ashburn Village Blvd’, it’s not necessarily his job to go down there and solve that problem. His job would be to come to the traffic unit…and say ‘hey guys, we have a problem, can you target this area for a few days.’…I never got that when I was a traffic cop…what I saw was the community policing officer trying to work those areas and trying to solve it himself, and I don’t think that’s the most effective way of using our resources.
Q: I understand that currently, there’s some sort of liaison or office for doing outreach to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Do you know anything about that?
A: In the Sheriff’s Office? I don’t, no, I’m not aware of that.
Q: Is that something that you think there should be, do you see a need for that kind of specific outreach, not just to our community, but to other specific communities?
A: I think, yeah, to designate for one specific, I don’t even think that would be practical. But I do want to have a relationship with different…even La Voz…I’d like to have forums and things where we could work together, on complaints, or issues of concern, or education…really more than anything I see as being one of the biggest problems with – for example, I went to the Christ the Redeemer church [the Spanish-language educational forum organized by La Voz], and I was scolded in the media for what I did, but it didn’t win me any votes by going there. It was not something that…I corrected what an attorney had told the people there; he said that you don’t have to present identification if you’re stopped for something simple like running a red light, and so I corrected that, I said no, that is incorrect. I said who I was, I’m running…and so all of a sudden when people realized who I was they had so many questions for me. Of course, they shut that down, but afterwards I continued to answer questions, and people wanted to know, if I’m a passenger in a car, do I have to present identification, and I said, no, you know, you don’t – the police can ask, but you don’t have to. And so these are the things that, from different organizations, that maybe these are the questions they would have and I think we need to reach out with the community and answer those, and inform the citizens. As far as, you know, particularly the gay and lesbian community, you know, I’ve never even thought about having a specific officer assigned to that, because I think there’s so many different organizations and clubs and groups that might say, you know, we want our own, but I would like to have open communication with any civic group, any community group, any ethnic group, any, you know, transgender groups, where you feel that you can come to the Sheriff’s Office and express your concerns, because we certainly, we have officers on our department that are, you know, homosexual or gay, I mean, I know them, I’m friends with them…actually, I put in a personal reference…it makes no difference to me what your…how you do your job in the department is not determined by the color of your skin, your religion, or your sexual preference, and I don’t think that should even be an issue.
Q: Are you aware, with regard to the community policing, of what happened when the Soulforce Equality Ride visited Patrick Henry College?
A: I was there – I was already running for office, and I went there and I saw the overwhelming presence that day. I think a lot of that had to do with, it’s the political season. I’m not sure, you know, he wanted to get his troops out there and show…here’s my thought on it. I went in and sat in on the press conference with Mike Farris, when he was talking. My thought on it is…now, I don’t know what intel he had, so it’s hard for me to second-guess other officers. But I would have preferred to have seen a few officers there, and then if you need more officers, you hide them around back. You know, where it’s not this big spectacle, and if there becomes a problem, the guys are there, right there, and you deal with it. But to have that kind of show of force, unless he had some kind of information that [Soulforce] said hey, we’re going to come in there and cause a problem..
Q: That’s my question. Here’s my issue with what happened that day. [Simpson] claimed to have had this intelligence, a quote-unquote “tip” that some outside group was going to come and be disruptive, maybe some “radicals” from the gay community, maybe counterprotesters – he heard something, or saw it on a blog – but Equality Loudoun never got a phone call, nobody ever contacted us and said do you know anything about this, can you help us assess this situation – I mean, obviously we were very involved with providing logistical support [to Soulforce], and knowing that this was a very choreographed act of civil disobedience, everybody knew what was going to go down there…but [the Sheriff’s Office] totally did not utilize us as a community resource. And my question is, how would you have handled this differently?
A: Well, I think if you are going to put that many guys out there on the line, you should look into, whatever the anonymous tip was, I think that before you start sending 40 year officers out there, you should try to investigate where that came from, and, like you said, using your resources, whether it’s contacting Soulforce, or if you guys had contacted him, following up with you, and ultimately, you still have to be, as the Sheriff, you still have to be prepared, and sometimes you have to make decisions, because what if somebody’s not telling you the truth?
Q: Well, right, and I’m not arguing – it could have been a valid tip. And I guess part of it is, I feel…we had an event that evening, open to the public, where we were providing a facility for dialogue, because Patrick Henry didn’t want it on campus, right in Purcellville, and there was absolutely no police protection there. So if they thought there was some kind of threat, we were sort of left hanging out there, never informed of it, didn’t hear anything about this tip until it appeared in the newspaper.
A: And this tip came from the Sheriff’s Office, that they got a tip about it, is that what..?
Q: Yeah, basically people were questioning why did you expend all these resources on this thing that two deputies and a squad car could have taken care of.
A: Well, I think some people, as you’ve seen on the blogs, are still waiting for the death threats that were made to Dale Myers that Simpson said were out there, so…and that’s been years ago…
Q: Well, I’d be very interested in finding out the source of this “tip,” if it was perhaps from Mike Farris because he wanted to create the impression that they were under attack from this…
A: Yeah…but from what I saw, and once again I’m not privy to the intel that was given there, I would have preferred to see, you know, you have some officers there, you have a police presence, but you don’t, if you have your riot team there, have them around back, hidden. And if you need them, you call them right up, they’re there in 30 seconds. But I think because the media was there, it was a good opportunity during the political season to show, you know, this is what we have at the Sheriff’s Office, and so, that’s my perspective…Once again, I try to put myself in a police officer’s position, and not knowing everything they knew – I don’t like to second guess them, and it is easy for us to do that – but certainly, resources, you know, like yourself, if it was something he was that concerned about, where he was going to call 30 or 40 officers out, maybe there should have been more investigation done before they did that, so I do agree with you on that.
Q: What is your view on hate crimes, both philosophically and from a law enforcement perspective? Because, you know, this ad your Dad ran, that’s what it was about, it was about the expansion of hate crimes legislation. Do you agree with him, or do you see it differently, from your perspective?
A: You know, hate crimes…I don’t philosophically, I don’t understand necessarily why punishment should be different or more severe based on…if you kill somebody because they’re, if you’re white and you kill somebody because they’re Asian, or you’re white and you kill a white person because you didn’t like them, what is the punishment, why should it be different, the crime was the same; I’m not sure that…you know, we’ve passed a lot of laws, you know, a lot of times to make people feel good, I think, that we’re doing something about it to deter hate crimes and we’re doing this, but ultimately the punishment can be just as…harsh whether or not there’s any bias involved at all, so I’m not sure really that the hate crime legislation – I’d be curious to see statistics, and I’m always leery of statistics anyway – but how have any of these things really made a difference? If somebody’s going to go kill somebody, it’s like saying, you know, the VA Tech shootings, that no guns were allowed on school; I mean that guy was nuts, or he had problems. I don’t think it would have mattered whether they said you can have guns on school or you can’t have guns on school, he was going to go kill those people. And I don’t think someone before they kill somebody, says “Oooh, there’s a hate crimes bill, I’d better not go kill that guy.”
Q: Ok, you’re talking about it from the perspective of enhanced penalties. But does it make sense to you, from the perspective of a law enforcement officer, to take into consideration the motivations of someone – I mean, does it make any difference, in terms of work in the community, whether somebody assaults somebody else so they can take their wallet, or assaults them while they’re screaming anti-gay slurs?
A: I think certainly, we need to be aware, if there’s that kind of motivation, and there’s movements like that where people are targeting people based on race, or their gender, or their sexual preference, I think we need to be aware of that, and from a law enforcement perspective, I almost see it more as an intelligence gathering, and understanding what’s going on in the community – are people being targeted because of that? That’s what we need to do…as far as the courts go, that’s entirely separate…I mean philosophically, I don’t see the hate crimes legislation, I’m not sure that’s really done anything, but from a Sheriff’s Office perspective, I think that’s very good information to see what’s going on in the community; you know, if we’re having white on black, or latino on black, you know, any kind of bias, like what you’ve seen in…I go back to looking at Los Angeles, and what’s happening there, a lot of traditionally black neighborhoods are now being taken over by, um, a lot of MS-13, Latino groups – La Raza, they would call it, and it’s no longer gang on gang violence, it’s…there are stories of black youth being killed solely because they’re black…and I think those things need to be addressed, and we need to be aware of what’s going on before it gets out of hand, because I think L.A. and those areas are a mess. So I think from an intelligence gathering standpoint, it’s a good thing; philosophically, I don’t know that making hate crimes bills does anything to prevent anyone from doing anything.
Q: I’d also like to ask you a few things about some of the stuff that’s being said by people who are very vocal about supporting you – and you obviously are not responsible for what other people are saying, let’s be clear about that – but some of the things that are being said, I’m thinking here about some of the spokesmen for Help Save Loudoun. And I don’t know that they’re necessarily good spokesmen for the group…I’m thinking of people like Greg Stone, who will get on the blogs and say things that I could generously characterize as insensitive to some very real concerns that the immigrant communities have about racial profiling. Are you concerned at all, for example, there are stories of people being profiled and harassed by the police, and he just dismisses that stuff as “sad little stories,” and “we’re just going to ignore that.” Are you concerned about the tone that’s being set by that kind of discourse?
A: By groups like Help Save Loudoun?
Q: Well, I don’t want to tar the whole group, but individuals who are saying things like that, who seem to have kind of a vigilante attitude, they just want something done, now. And your job, if you’re elected, is to uphold the Constitution.
A: I think it’s…it is very interesting, because I found myself in a…it’s interesting to see how your support overlaps. People from Help Save Loudoun would agree with my stance on doing something about illegal immigration, whereas there may be people in there who don’t agree with what I think on social issues, and we may be on opposite ends of the spectrum. But it is interesting to see how there is sort of this rallying cry, and I’ll be the first to say, the issue of illegal immigration is not going to be, we’re not going to solve it in a four year term; I mean, it’s a federal problem, but it is a local problem as well, and I look to try to use the resources we have to deal with it as best we can locally. There have been complaints of racial profiling probably, you know, way before I was in law enforcement, and so, to say that we’re going to use this tool, which is ICE, the 287g program, to me the positives far outweigh the negatives, because the greatest benefit we’re going to see, unlike what Herndon’s doing, where they actually have to use it on the street – that’s the only way they can use it, is their officers going up and approaching people, because they don’t have their own jail. In Loudoun, the best part about it is that if we decided to do nothing with it except use it in the jail, we would make an incredible impact, because what it would be is people who are already arrested, who have committed a crime, not stopped and pulled over because we suspect that they might be illegal, or some of these racial profiling incidents, these are people who are arrested by Leesburg Police, Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, Purcellville Police, come into our jails, and then they’re run through the system if we can’t prove who they are. It’s just an added tool for us to do that, and it’s a great deterrent for people that would come here illegally and commit crimes locally. If they don’t commit crimes, then there’s no authority by the Sheriff’s Office to deport them.
Q: Do you think that all the people who are supporting you understand that? Because it seems to me that there’s a real attitude of ‘we want these people rounded up and out of here.’ I mean, we were at one of the early meetings, I guess, of Help Save Loudoun…and someone made the point that you can’t just take 12 million people and ship them out of the country, and someone sitting behind us said “why not – I’ll drive.” I mean, that kind of attitude.
A: I think there’s a lot of people, and that’s why a lot of people aren’t running for office – I mean, I understand their passion and their frustration, you know, a lot of people say things out of frustration, but realistically, you cannot be a law enforcement officer, and we don’t want our elected officials running on that kind of passion and fear, and you know, we have to obey the law. We have to go by what the federal government, what we do does not, we don’t have any authority in this area unless it’s granted to us by the federal government. And so all I’m talking about doing is a program that the federal government has already said, hey, local jurisdictions, you can use this in your own community to help deal with, you know, the criminal aspect of it. They don’t give us the authority to go in businesses and check IDs and deport people, because they’re not going to take those people. That’s not our job, and that takes away from what we as law enforcement officers need to be doing, which is dealing with crime and the criminal element. Probably the biggest thing that a group like La Voz could get out, and different community groups, is to get this information out, that having the ICE program here is not going to target people who are here illegally who have not committed crimes. We will not have the authority to deport you, to separate you from your family – obviously there will be a deterrent value, there will be a lot of people who will say, Loudoun is hard on it, so maybe I’m not going to go there to drink, maybe if I live in Centreville I’m not going to come down to Pepe’s and drink, and if I get caught drinking and driving I might be deported, so you can’t put a price tag on that.
Q: Isn’t part of – what I understood you to be saying at the debate [this refers to a statement that money would be saved by some number of undocumented children not being educated in our public schools] was part of the deterrent was not just to make, to deter people from being here and committing crimes, but it’s actually to deter people from being here, because Loudoun’s not, you know, a welcoming, we’re not putting out the welcome mat. And isn’t part of what you’re hoping, or what your supporters are definitely voicing, is the hope that people will just pack up and leave and just go somewhere else?
A: Certainly, my job is to enforce the law and to use this tool. I think, also, separate from that, I fully support our federal government doing something to secure our ports, our borders, you know, some of the 9-11 terrorists were here on Visa violations and they were stopped by local law enforcement officers. So it’s not just about, you know, a certain ethnic group, but it’s about obeying the laws, providing protection for our country, and I would hope that, I would encourage the legislature, our legislators in Richmond and in DC to do something, and my goal is to do what I can locally to enforce the law, and hopefully, the people that are in office will decide that, hey, we’re going to do something to deal with the issue. And as I said before, and people give me a hard time for saying it, if it was my life, you know, if I lived in a Third World country, and I had no money to provide, and my child needed medication, and I needed to provide food, based on the way the federal government has it now, and our lack of doing anything to deter people from coming here illegally, I’d probably come, too…what choice do you have? But people give me a hard time for saying that, like it’s a double standard. I don’t put the fault on illegal immigrants, by any means. I think that’s where some groups get angry at the illegal immigrants, and I’m not angry at anybody…I’m angry at the federal government, that they’ve done nothing, and I think they profit on both sides of the aisle, big business profits…so I think that’s the frustration, that’s where the frustration needs to be directed, not at the immigrant community.
Q: And they are the ones who are here, they’re kind of the convenient target – and that’s kind of what I’m getting at with these, these folks who are just so frustrated, and I understand the frustration, but I really think a lot of them are expecting things to happen that aren’t necessarily going to happen, because even people who are here illegally do have a right to due process, and that’s not something that seems to be real high on their list.
A: Yeah, the deportation judge will still – even if we arrest them, it’s still up to a judge to determine whether or not they’re going to be deported, so we could pick them up through the ICE program, and the judge might say, no, we’re not going to do it.
Q: And it’s so complicated, all the different ways that people can be documented, it’s way too hard to summarize in a sound byte. So people who are just frustrated have these expectations. Are you concerned about some of this attitude translating into vigilante activities, or people just getting so fed up that…
A: I would certainly hope not, I mean, that’s…
Q: Do you have any kind of plan to deal with that eventuality?
A: I have not seen where, in Loudoun County where people, like we were talking about hate crimes, where people are acting out on their own to solve these kinds of problems, and I’m certainly not in support of that – I mean, the federal government needs to do their job, locally we need to do what we can, but I will provide, if you are here illegally, and you’re a victim of a crime, we’re going to, we’re going to deal with the violator, and whether you’re here illegally or not, you’re entitled to some basic human rights, and that, you know, goes above and beyond, it usurps this authority that the ICE program gives us, and so I, I don’t expect that by any means, and if people expect that I’m going to have everything solved if I’m elected, it’s not going to be that way.
Q: I’ll give you an example, and I’ve heard this, I sort of dismissed this the first time I heard it, because it was from someone known to me to be a Simpson supporter, and…it was similar to the rumor about the tattoo. Someone told me, and I’ve since heard it from other sources too, so I tend to give it more weight now, that some of your delegates at the [Republican] convention were overheard saying “when Greg Ahlemann is elected Sheriff, he’s going to get all the sp*** out of Loudoun County.”
A: That’s the first I’ve heard that rumor…you know, I’ve heard several stories about things said at the convention, and I don’t know if..
Q: The Dean Settle story was one of them, right? [This refers to the report of an individual who directed a racial slur at an African-American delegate in Mr. Settle’s company.]
A: Yes, he and I have talked about it, and first I’ll say, I don’t know if they were my supporters or my delegates, people had my stickers on, which we were handing out like candy, anybody who wanted one, we were putting them out. I don’t condone any of that attitude…honestly, I’d rather not have your vote if you’re…because I don’t want my campaign associated with that kind of attitude at all…I didn’t quit my job and run on trying to make things better to associate myself or to mistreat people like that. I pride myself on trying to treat everybody, you know, fairly and the same, and it’s unfortunate if people have that kind of attitude, because I don’t want my campaign to get associated with that at all.
Q: Well, that’s good to know – and kind of what I would expect you to say. 🙂 Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
A: I’ll check your blog, and I’ll comment. I look at opportunities like this to talk with you, that, is it politically a benefit for me? Probably not, not really, I mean as far as votes, but the point and the tone that I’m trying to set, is that as, if the people choose me to be the next Sheriff, I’m going to have an open dialogue with people, whether they agree with me, or whether they dislike me, I mean there are a lot of people who hate me because they think I’m pushing this ICE program, so they hate me. But I’m going to treat them just the same when I’m elected Sheriff, because it’s my job, and I can’t take those kinds of things personally, and so I want to reach out to the community and to different groups, and so I look at an interview like this as an opportunity to show that I’m willing to sit down and talk with people who come from totally different perspectives and standpoints on issues, but yet I hear your concerns, and I want to be, to have a Sheriff’s Office that’s going to address those the best we can. And at the end of the day, you know, people will vote for who they want, and I’ll be happy either way once it’s over. I mean, I obviously want to be Sheriff, but I’m ready for the election to come, I wish it was today, because you know it would be nice to get it done, but you know, I quit my job, I put my hat in the ring, and tried to make a difference for the guys that I worked with, for things I saw that needed to be changed, and I’m very proud of how I’ve acted, and dealt with other candidates and other campaigns, and you know, it’s unfortunate, sometimes you do get people, that even though they support me, like you were talking about at the convention, they might support me on one issue, but they might be way off base with me on other issues. Even in the Republican Party, I don’t see eye to eye with every candidate in there – I mean, I signed the pledge that I’m going to support them, but there’s clearly friction with some of the inner goings-on in there.
Q: Clearly”¦well, do you have any sense of who it was that started thsi rumor? Because I’m hearing that it was actually someone within the Republican committee.
A: It could be, it wouldn’t surprise me. I mean, honestly, I’d be more afraid of…some of the factions of so-called Republicans that don’t want me to be elected than I am of the Democrats. You know, let’s run on the issues, and let’s run on whatever your platform is, and your experience, let’s run on those things. But to try to bring things up about personal attacks, I think is wrong – and that’s actually one of the reasons that I contacted you about the thing on your website, because I remembered you guys talking about Patricia Phillips and the John Andrews race, so I said well, does that go both ways, because I felt like, you know, I was accused of these things, you know, being anti-gay, when I’ve got family members that are gay…
Q: Do you want to talk about that at all?
A: Well, yeah, I’ll talk about it, whatever questions…[Kim: We embrace them; they’re our family.]
From a, from my religious perspective, what my family members are doing is wrong, I think that’s clear from the Bible. Now, does it make me love them any less, or does it make their sin any different from sins I’ve committed, or sin when a husband goes and cheats on his wife? It’s no different. So to go out and bash, or say I’m not going to associate with those people, I mean that’s, I think it’s really hypocritical for people to take that approach, and I think, people have given my father a hard time, but I think, you know, he’s the first one to sit down with somebody who disagrees with him…he’ll still sit down like I try to do, and let’s talk. At the end of the day we might not agree on it, but I’m still going to treat you the same as I would anybody else.
Q: He’s a very interesting guy [this remark elicited considerable laughter]. I mean, when I wrote that blog piece that the comment was posted to, I had not met him; that ad had just come out…it was very offensive…but it’s very interesting, he and [Equality Loudoun board member] Jonathan have established this kind of relationship, and he said to Jonathan, “you know, I’ve never had a gay friend before,” and I just find that fascinating. He’s what, 67 years old? How do you get through life without [knowing someone] or knowing that you know someone?
And I thought it was interesting, you said that you’re doing this [interview], and it’s not necessarily going to win you votes, or it’s not necessarily going to be good for you, and I’m not sure whether you meant it’s not going to be good for you in terms of our community, or other people saying “Oh, he went on that gay blog.”
A: No, it’s kind of like…[here there is a discussion of whether or not the interviewer as an individual is a “staunch Democrat,” which isn’t relevant in the context of this nonpartisan organization]…Because I don’t necessarily, because the issues that I run on, I don’t expect people who are hardcore Democrats, who walk that party line, to come over and vote for me; I don’t think they will. So that’s why I say I could use opportunities to go and talk to people and try to win their vote. In a lot of ways, I think people are very closed-minded – and they shouldn’t be in a Sheriff’s race, more than any race…people need to understand, that if I run for higher office, and I’m going to be setting policy on things, then question me, whatever, but I’m about enforcing the law and treating everybody the same. But some people, because I’m, you know, conservative and a Republican are not going to vote for me, purely because of that, which is unfortunate. But I think that the issues and things that I’m running on, I think there will be a lot of Democrats and Independents that will vote for me, even though I may have an R next to my name, because they believe in what I’m trying to do with the Sheriff’s Office, to try to make it a better place for us, for everybody in the community, regardless of your political affiliation…I’ve learned that politics is not necessarily a fun thing, but I do have new respect for anyone that runs, because you put yourself out there, and it’s definitely a challenge.
Q; Well, thank you very much for your time, and I really appreciate you sitting down with me. [Again, Greg is willing to answer questions readers leave in the comments section.]