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State and Local Officials Quit over Increasing Violent Threats Against Them and Their Families


Election workers looking at ballots

Scores of government officials and potential candidates are abandoning public office due to threats of violence against them and their families.


According to the National League of Cities, more than 80% of local officials have been subjected to physical attacks or cyber bullying. Another poll by the Brennan Center for Justice revealed that one out of six officials has received threats and one in five is likely to not serve out their current term.


These threats are more than just taunting on social media. They include threats of rape, vandalism, and arson at the homes of elected officials.

“The price that we’re going to pay is that getting good people to run for public office will be the most challenging thing we will face,” Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities, said. “And that’s a big price to pay in a democratic system.”


A Senior Research Scientist with the Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation is worried this could deter many qualified people from serving in public office. “If we’re going to be putting our public officials and their families in that kind of danger, either people will not stay in their positions in public services … or it may mean qualified people will choose another path.”


Threats to Government Officials

Authorities suspect arson in the fire that ravaged the home of San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher and his wife, former state legislator Lorena Gonzalez.

Pennsylvania Mayor, Joe Schember, received a bomb threat in his home in February. Police found two bombs on that same day in Erie County courthouse.


In another instance of attacks on government officials, Idaho Mayor Lauren McLean issued an emotional, 900-word statement in March detailing “sinister thwarted plots' ' against her and protestors welding torches and pitchforks outside of her home.


A trial of four suspects who plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 ended in not guilty verdicts for two of the defendants, and the jury was deadlocked on the other two. Prosecutors said the men were part of a militia group who were upset over pandemic restrictions imposed by the governor.


Public Officials Leaving Posts After Threats

Some government officials are already announcing their decision not to run for office due to violent threats. County Commissioner Kendra Kenyon of Ada, Idaho, cited “a hostile community culture” when she announced she would not run for re-election.

Idaho Secretary of State candidate, Chad Houck dropped out of the race citing social media threats against his children.

Dodge City, Kansas, Mayor Joyce Warshaw quit in December 2020, after she received several anonymous threatening messages following a USA Today piece about the city’s struggles with COVID-19 and its decision to reimpose mask mandates.


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