After a controversial Democratic primary in which Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil failed to win the support of his own party, Democratic challenger Charmaine McGuffey is now facing Bruce Hoffbauer to become the county’s senior lawyer.
Both candidates have emphasized their law enforcement experience and desire to engage with the community, but questions about qualifications affect both campaigns.
McGuffey served in the sheriff’s office for 33 years, rose to the rank of major, and served as the commandant of the prison and judicial services for Hamilton County. She is the highest ranking woman in the history of the office. In 2017 she left the department.
“I can feel the dynamism of that 70 percent victory in the primary,” said McGuffey. “It made a really strong statement about my campaign, about what people want from their criminal justice experts going to the general election, and I can literally feel the campaign driving the campaign forward.”
The department’s first openly gay candidate
She is also the first LGBT candidate for the Hamilton County Sheriff and has become one of the most notable LGBT figures in Cincinnati politics since the April primary election.
“My role is to be an example of what an LGBT person can achieve because there is a lot of discrimination,” said McGuffey. “There have been many times that I’ve struggled to keep my sexual orientation to myself because I knew it would harm my career if it got out.
“It feels great to be an LGBTQ candidate, but I know it’s a huge responsibility to prove to people that LGBTQ shouldn’t hold anyone back.”
Hoffbauer’s family ties
Hoffbauer served in the Cincinnati Police Department for 34 years and recently retired as a lieutenant and duty officer for District 3 in Western Hills. Working in the sheriff’s office was a dream for Hoffbauer, as his father was deputy sheriff for 52 years.
“Over time, I always had a feel for the sheriff’s office,” said Hoffbauer. “Timing is almost everything, and when I was in the twilight of my career at Cincinnati (Police Department) I looked at the sheriff’s office and thought, ‘You know, this place raised me, put food on my stomach, clothes put on ‘my back, gave my father a career for 52 years.’ I felt like I wanted to go back there. “
McGuffey has criticized Hoffbauer for his lack of experience in the sheriff’s office, pointing out his underdog status and the problems that could lead to a change to the role.
“He really has no experience of administering anything in the sheriff’s office, nor any years of service,” said McGuffey. “He touts his last police department experience, but the sheriff’s office has the prison and judicial services I ran and he has no budget management experience. He’s a middle manager Level as a lieutenant. ” and has no experience in the sectors for which I was responsible. “
Controversial pasts of the candidates
Hoffbauer has criticized several incidents of McGuffey throughout her career in the Sheriff’s Department, most notably her demotion in 2017. An internal investigation found that McGuffey had created a hostile work environment for her subordinates and she was demoted to a civilian position. She left the sheriff’s office after the demotion, claiming the officers complained about her conduct because of her gender and sexuality. She has filed a discrimination complaint against the ministry in the federal court. The case is still pending.
“McGuffey left under no great circumstances, she was cited on 31 charges of creating a hostile work environment, all of which were sustained,” Hoffbauer said. “Is that the type of person you’d like to run the department with with this past?”
But Hoffbauer’s career is not free from controversy either. He was involved in the 1990 Corryville police shooting of Walter Brown. Then-Hamilton County District Attorney Arthur Ney ruled Hoffbauer and another official were not breaking the law, but City Manager Gerald Newfarmer stated that Hoffbauer used excessive force. The incident has come back into the spotlight amid recent protests across the country against police brutality and racial injustice, including in Cincinnati.
About ‘Defunding’ The Police
Many of these protesters called for “debilitating the police” or moving funds from law enforcement to other community interests. Both McGuffey and Hoffbauer do not support the idea of defusing the police, but McGuffey believes that social workers should play a bigger role in law enforcement and should provide specialized assistance in cases where there is no imminent threat to an officer’s life and an armed officer may not be required to do so.
“A lot of the runs we respond to are social ills – addictions, mental crises, people struggling with everyday things,” said McGuffey. “If we can direct people to the right place to get help instead of locking them up, that’s what we want to do.”
Hoffbauer disagrees, pointing out the need for armed officers in any interaction with the public.
“When you talk about social services … I’m definitely behind it because we need that in the prison system,” said Hoffbauer. “But when you take away armed officers in social worker situations, you create a recipe for disaster.”
He suggests setting up a similar system that works in the Cincinnati Police Department, sending social workers along with armed officials to deal with non-violent situations such as mental crisis.
Similarly, McGuffey supports the demilitarization of the sheriff’s office to some extent, pointing out the unneeded surplus military vehicles and equipment that are wasting taxpayers’ money.
“I don’t want to buy more tanks or more bullets. I want to invest in the human factor; that’s how I count the strength of our department,” said McGuffey.
Hoffbauer again contradicts and points out the necessity of military surplus equipment for certain high-risk situations.
“You must have a firepower equal to or greater than the firepower you are facing,” he said. “We can’t look like we’re going into an armed battle, but you must have this equipment available if something really bad and terrible happens.”
Charmaine McGuffey and Bruce Hoffbauer face each other in the general election on November 3rd. Eligible voters in Ohio have until October 5th to register for the November 3rd general election. Voters can also request a postal vote on the Hamilton County Board of Elections website.