Editorials

How to make it even worse when a pedophile supports your campaign

Lathrop Police Services removed a Howze For Congress logo from a suspect’s t-shirt after complaints from the candidate’s campaign. David Alanis was arrested in a sweep in April of this year after Lathrop detectives posed as decoys and informed individuals that they were under the age of 14. The suspect pictured, arranged to meet the decoy minor for a sexual act, police said.
Lathrop Police Services removed a Howze For Congress logo from a suspect’s t-shirt after complaints from the candidate’s campaign. David Alanis was arrested in a sweep in April of this year after Lathrop detectives posed as decoys and informed individuals that they were under the age of 14. The suspect pictured, arranged to meet the decoy minor for a sexual act, police said. Lathrop Police Services

So many things went wrong in Ted Howze’s perfectly understandable attempt to not have his congressional campaign connected to a pedophile.

  • David Alanis, 36, surely wishes he hadn’t found himself among a couple of dozen adults allegedly hoping to have sex with a child, all caught in an April sting run by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department.
  • Howze surely wishes that Alanis had not chosen to wear a Howze campaign T-shirt the day he was arrested. Howze certainly wishes that people had not brought attention to it on social media, after a photo appeared on Lathrop Police’s Facebook page. He might even wish that his campaign had decided to let bad enough alone, rather than officially requesting that the Sheriff’s Department take down a photo of Alanis’ arrest.
  • Sheriff Patrick Withrow probably wishes his office had simply replaced the full-torso picture with Alanis’ mug photo — as Howze’s campaign had requested, all the while accusing Withrow of posting it for political purposes — rather than blurring out the Howze logo.

Reposting the doctored picture generated a lot more attention, and not the good kind. People now wanted to know if Withrow was making a statement, or showing political favoritism, or just using poor judgment. Subsequent fallout made the original goof-up much worse.

Let’s review how this thing might have played out, had people made different decisions.

Once it was known that Alanis was sporting the Howze T-shirt in his arrest photo, Howze’s camp might have responded with something like, “We gave away hundreds of T-shirts in our 2018 campaign. We have no idea who this guy is or how he got one. We condemn pedophilia.” A few would snicker or shake their heads, but most would accept that perfectly reasonable response and the thing doesn’t blow up.

In his turn, Withrow might refuse to be bullied. If people complain, the Sheriff’s Department might respond with something like, “We don’t tell suspects what to wear when we arrest them. That’s what he was wearing. End of story.” Most reasonable people would buy that. Truth is truth.

Once it did blow up, it’s hard to cut either Howze or Withrow much slack.

Howze isn’t new to politics. He ran for county supervisor in 2004 and served on the Turlock City Council from 2006 to 2010, and he impressed many with last year’s third-place Primary finish in a run for the 10th Congressional District, behind then-incumbent and fellow Republican Jeff Denham and Democrat Josh Harder, the eventual victor. Howze now is mounting a vigorous campaign to oppose Harder next year.

Withrow is much newer to the public stage. He grew up in Modesto, attended Central Catholic High School, Modesto Junior College and Stanislaus State, and his brother is Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow. The sheriff was elected only a year ago and installed in January, but he’s playing with the big boys now and might have used better judgment when Howze complained. Instead, his office blurred the Howze logo precisely because not doing so “could have been construed as a political move,” he said in a release.

Having learned something from this fiasco, Withrow told reporters his office will obscure all logos in future arrest photos.

Howze’s campaign, in contrast, refused to acknowledge any mistake on their part, and refused a request to speak with Howze personally. That was an unfortunate surprise, given his usual candor and accessibility in previous contacts.

One bright spot in this otherwise sorry spectacle: There now is one less pervert on our streets. Alanis is doing six months behind bars, and will be tracked by law enforcement as a registered sex offender the rest of his life.

Garth Stapley is The Modesto Bee’s Opinions page editor. Before this assignment, he worked 25 years as a Bee reporter, covering local government agencies and the high-profile murder case of Scott and Laci Peterson.
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