(May 25, 2018) In elections, endorsements matter, and if you’re running for state’s attorney in Worcester, having the endorsement of law enforcement personnel is paramount.
But Worcester has two Fraternal Order of Police lodges, and each has chosen a different candidate to back for the June 26 primary. Lodge 10 (Ocean City) picked Kris Heiser, while Lodge 50 (Worcester County) chose to endorse Bill McDermott.
They did not vote on endorsements at the same time. Lodge 50 voted first and announced its endorsement of McDermott before Lodge 10’s process had finished. McDermott’s campaign also sent a press release announcing the endorsement.
Lodge 50 apparently didn’t anticipate Lodge 10 voting a different way.
Both lodges are answerable to a state office, which mandates that if there is a disagreement about endorsing a candidate, no public statements are to be given by the orders.
“At the state level, the State Fraternal Order of Police were concerned that the power of an FOP endorsement would be diluted by having two lodges within one county with different endorsements, and so they instructed us to mediate a solution,” Chris Larmore, Lodge 50 president, said.
The agreement, reached via separate meetings between the lodges and their preferred candidate, was that no further announcements would be made.
“I spoke to Kris Heiser and told her going forward she couldn’t use the FOP star or endorsement,” Joe Bushnell, Lodge 10 president, said. “She told me she wouldn’t go forward with a message without letting the lodge know first.”
But Larmore and Bushnell agreed that’s not what happened.
“On April 21, 2018 at the Republican Lincoln Day Dinner, Ms. Heiser decided that she would unilaterally violate our trust and the agreement, and announced to the 150 people that she had been endorsed by Lodge 10,” Larmore said.
Larmore accused Heiser of repeating the mistake by issuing a press release on April 30 using the endorsement and running a print advertisement the same week.
“Ms. Heiser is running for State’s Attorney, a position that requires someone to be beyond all reproach. Ms. Heiser has clearly decided that winning at all costs is more important than honoring a promise she made to this county’s law enforcement,” Larmore said.
Heiser doesn’t see it that way.
“If Lodge 50 hadn’t jumped the gun, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now,” she said. “This has to do with the timing of Bill’s (McDermott’s) endorsement, not anything that I did.”
From her point of view, it was Lodge 50 trying to avoid sanction by the state office that led to the situation.
“Lodge 50’s standing with the state lodge isn’t good. As of the April meeting, I believed Lodge 50 would be sanctioned,” she said.
The local lodges had a meeting scheduled with the state office in April, before the Lincoln Day Dinner. Heiser came by the belief that Lodge 50 would be sanctioned from Bushnell, with whom she had been exchanging text messages.
“As of right now, there were no sanctions because both lodges have agreed that although there were endorsements, the lodges are not going to do any public announcements. That’s what’s going to keep the state lodge from making a ruling,” Bushnell wrote in a text message to Heiser on April 18. “Unfortunately, Lodge 50 jumped the gun, but as of now they are staying quiet.”
Heiser said that because Lodge 50’s announcement was made public, Lodge 10’s should be as well.
“First, Billy still has his endorsement posted on Facebook and on the blogs with FOP officer quotes included. So they have no need to further comment because their comments are already public,” Heiser wrote to Bushnell in a text message. “I should at least be able to have the same, so it’s fair. I’m only seeking fair treatment.
“If either lodge makes any further mention of endorsements, public statements or otherwise, that is acknowledging the endorsements and against what state has said. I’m sorry there isn’t more I can do,” Bushnell wrote to Heiser.
Heiser does not dispute she acknowledged the endorsements as described in Larmore’s letter. After the dinner, Bushnell texted her again.
“You might have just caused a big problem announcing the endorsement publicly. It’s the FOP’s endorsement to give out, not yours to take and do with what you will,” he wrote. “You realize now I’ll get a call from either Lodge 50, Billy or the state lodge. I know you didn’t think it was “fair” but that’s politics. It wasn’t going to get worse, but now it probably will.”
Larmore then contacted this newspaper, and probably others, about the situation.
“It seems unfair to bind Bill McDermott to the agreement he was willing to keep, when his opponent is willing to do anything she believes is in her best interests. Lodge 50 released Bill McDermott to continue publishing our endorsement of him for States Attorney,” Larmore said. “I hope the voters of Worcester County remember that honesty, trustworthiness and commitment are among the greatest requirements of a State’s Attorney, and she has demonstrated a lack of all three.”
Heiser said she has no issue with how the lodges run things, just how this situation was handled.
“[Larmore’s statements are] full of wild inaccuracies and misrepresentation. There’s no need to do fact-checking when I can prove it,” she said, and then provided screenshots of text messages and emails between Bushnell and herself.
“At no point has Larmore talked to me,” she said. “This isn’t personal to me — [Bill] wants the job, I want the job, I just find all of this unnecessary.”
Bill McDermott declined to comment for the purposes of this story.