Two familiar faces are on the ballot for Ada County Sheriff in the May GOP primary.
Next month, voters will choose between incumbent Sheriff Matt Clifford and challenger Doug Traubel to decide who will be on the Republican ticket in a bid to become Ada County’s top cop. The winner of the primary will then go on to face Democrat Victor McGraw in the November election to determine who will head up law enforcement for Idaho’s largest county.
This is not the first time Clifford and Traubel have come up against each other in a bid to become Sheriff. Both were part of the Ada County Republican Central Committee’s shortlist of three nominees the Ada County Commissioners had to select from when Sheriff Steve Bartlett abruptly resigned last year. In a two-to-one vote with Republican Commissioner Ryan Davidson voting no, the commissioners selected Clifford over Traubel and Mike Chilton.
But, now the voters will get the power to decide for themselves which of the two candidates they prefer to represent the Republican Party.
BoiseDev interviewed both candidates. Here is information about their backgrounds and views in alphabetical order.
Finding ways to keep up with Ada County’s rapid growth while still chasing continuous improvement for the agency is a major goal of Clifford’s if the voters decide to let him keep his seat.
Clifford said even amidst national criticism of law enforcement that rippled through the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he was proud to see how much Ada County stood behind his department. He says the agency has several policies that put them “ahead of the curve” on improving relations with the community, including strong hiring standards, de-escalation training for officers, and a crisis intervention team with a clinician paired with an officer for mental health-related calls.
“We’ve built a culture centered around serving the county and serving the community and working well with others both inside and outside of our community and I want to make sure that we can continue to move forward as an agency and better ourselves and tackle some of the problems, like growth, that are rapidly coming to our county and make sure that as a law enforcement agency we’re providing a product that people believe in and that people trust,” he told BoiseDev.
Clifford has served his entire career with the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, starting as a jail deputy in 2000. He eventually worked his way up to patrol deputy, patrol sergeant, K-9 handler and became a member of the inmate transport team before being named Eagle Police Chief in July 2019.
There are multiple ways Clifford hopes to address growth in Ada County. With large developments at the edge of the county, like Avimor to the north and Kuna booming in the south, he is considering creating a special inmate transport program. This would keep officers out in the field instead of burning time traveling from the far edges of the county back to the jail to book suspects.
But, he said the most significant priority the county should be pursuing right now is the construction of a new jail to keep up with the growing population. He supports the county going out for a bond to fund its construction in November.
“The crime rate may not be climbing, but the number of people is getting bigger so the building you hold that percentage of people in is not big enough,” he said. “You can’t accommodate the number of people. We really need it now.”
Different groups see different things in Traubel.
To some more conservative Republicans and groups like Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights, his aim to be a Constitutional Sheriff standing between the residents of Ada County and the government when he views rights are being violated is commendable. To others, his political writings and comments about the role of Jewish people in the rise of the Soviet Union, the economic viability of single mothers, and a charge that over 50% of rape allegations are false rankle.
He told BoiseDev the line of questioning from the commissioners who voted him down about his political writings, comments about World War II, and a book he published showed a lack of understanding of his views or his history of treating people with respect.
“I am highly decorated and professional and I have been always who I have always been,” Traubel said. “Just because they were intellectually lazy and didn’t read my book, that’s not on me. I don’t cower to yellow journalism or the false premise in the social justice narrative.”
To substantiate his claims about false rape allegations, he pointed BoiseDev to a 2012 study published on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website about false allegations of adult crimes. The article discusses false reports of crimes, noting they “tend to be the exception rather than the rule,” and does not provide a statistic of false rape claims.
However, another webpage Traubel linked to on his campaign website about feminism encouraging false rape accusations and “the epidemic of rape hysteria and false accusations of rape in Western cultures” cites the FBI study as its source for 60% of rapes being false accusations, despite the statistic being missing from the FBI study itself.
Traubel formerly worked for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office from 1994 through 2003 when he transferred to the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office to work as an investigator. He left county employment in March 2019 and has been “semi-retired” since that time. He owns his own private investigation business.
He proposes completely doing away with implicit bias training (which he calls Critical Race Theory for cops) because he said it makes officers more worried about how their actions will be perceived rather than confident to intervene and stop a crime. If elected, Traubel said he would “interpose” between the citizen and the government if there were any actions he perceived as overreach.
An example of a situation Traubel said he would intervene in like is when Ammon Bundy and one of his supporters were arrested on the steps of the Ada County Courthouse on a failure to appear warrant last year because they refused to wear masks inside the building during their trial.
Traubel is also a proponent of an inmate transport service to assist with growth. He said this idea is one he has been pitching for a while to help keep deputies out in the field instead of wasting time transporting inmates back and forth from the outer edges of the county to the jail.
One major policy difference between Traubel and Clifford is their views on the need for a new jail. Traubel acknowledges a new jail is needed at some point, but he thinks the county shouldn’t rush to build one right now. Instead, he says the county should change its policy to keep people out of custody, like how the department operated during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, to keep the jail from being maxed out.
“If a policy change can decrease the population, you have to ask yourself is there something wrong with the policy?” he said. “Should they have been out and working a job instead of just being housed? Why were they in the first place?”