Throwing down the gauntlet

LISBON – A Salem man running for county commissioner believes candidates should be drug-tested, and he wants to start with himself, his immediate opponent and would-be opponent.

“In most jobs and many schools, drug testing is mandatory. It is time we held our public officials to this same standard,” Nathan Walker said, in a news release issued last week.

Walker is seeking the Democratic nomination for the Columbiana County commissioner seat held by Republican Mike Halleck. Dan Bailey is his opponent in the Democratic primary election on May 6.

“It blows my mind that to work at a gas station you need to take a drug test, but a county commissioner handling millions of dollars and making decisions that affect over a hundred thousand people does not have to be held to the same standard,” he continued.

Walker believes all politicians should volunteer to be tested, but testing positive should not necessarily be an automatic disqualification for seeking office, leaving that decision to voters. He said he is already tested as a condition of his employment as a chef for AVI Food Systems.

Walker said he would take the lead in getting tested and submitting the results to the local news media, challenging Bailey and Halleck to do likewise. “If Bailey, Halleck and I all get tested we are sending a good message to the community,” he said, in his news release.

Bailey chuckled when told of Walker’s suggestion. “If he’s paying for it, I’m down for that,” he said. “To be honest, I do find it humorous.”

Halleck described the request as “bizarre and outrageous,” especially considering it has nothing to do with any county issues. Halleck, who was subject to drug tests while employed in a previous job, said should Walker win the Democratic primary “I will be more than happy to engage in whatever issues he feels he wants to discuss.”

Walker was asked by the newspaper whether, in issuing the news release, if he was insinuating that either Bailey or Halleck used drugs. “I don’t think so and I hope not, but I want to be a leader and I think we should lead by example,” he said.

Halleck, in his own news release, brought up Walker’s 2007 conviction for urinating in public, calling on the county Democrat Party to “refute his candidacy in lieu of not only his bizarre behavior in this matter, but the recent revelation that he was convicted of public indecency.”

Walker said there is nothing “bizarre” about wanting to hold public officials to the same standards as many others. “As for being ‘bizarre,’ how can it be if everyone is calling for drug testing for welfare” recipients and yet others receiving taxpayer dollars are not subject to the same requirements, he said.

Halleck went on to call Walker’s candidacy “an embarrassment to our political process,” saying it is common knowledge in political circles that his “mentor” is “disgraced” ex-county recorder Craig Brown.

“Mr. Walker would be well served to present himself in his own words and stop being used by someone who is only interested in blaming others for his own demise,” Halleck said, in his news release.

Walker said he and Brown have been friends since high school, and he is serving as an unofficial advisor to his campaign. “Yes, in the past he’s had his problems … but I’m just asking him for his advice,” Walker said of Brown.

As for the press release suggesting drug testing, or the other releases issued by his campaign, Walker said, “Everything has been my idea.”