The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on September 19, 2004 · Page 17
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 17

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Page 17
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MN_A_20_A20_LA_1_09-19-04_su_1_CMYK 2004:09:18:21:51:54_dcampbell1 A20 SUNDAY,SEPTEMBER19,2004 , LOSANGELESTIMES The Nation By David Kelly Times Staff Writer LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Earl Dodge is a 71-year-old teetotaler with a Carry Nation coffee mug and a passion for the days when beer was illegal, gin was brewed in bathtubs and alcoholism was a moral failing, not a disease. Now for the sixth time, the antibooze activist from suburban Denver is running for president as head of the Prohibition Party. So far, he’s on the ballot only in Colorado, a state brimming with microbreweries, where the mayor of Denver runs seven bars and the Republican candidate for Senate is Pete Coors, owner of one of the world’s biggest beer makers. “What better place to be?” asked Dodge, sitting in a cluttered officefestooned with unsmiling portraits of past Prohibitionists. “I don’t want to puff myself up, but I think this is a calling. God wants me to do this.” But some of his former colleagues don’t. The Prohibition Party has been on the skids for nearly a century. Efforts to drum up excitement for a postmodern temperance movement have fizzled. And the dismal 2000 election result, when Dodge netted 208 votes, was the worst showing in party history. Disaffected Prohibitionists grumbled that their leader was dragging them down, paying more attention to his mail order campaign button business than the future of the party. “Selling buttons is my livelihood,” Dodge retorted. “And it’s a fascinating hobby. I’ve learned so much about history.” Late last year, a group of dissidents got together at a rural Tennessee condo and voted Dodge out as national chairman. They formed the Concerns of People (Prohibition) Party and nominated their own presidential candidate. “Earl was promoted to chairman emeritus — which is anice way of saying you’re fired,” said James Hedges, one of the dissident leaders. The 66-year-old tax assessor in rural Thompson Township, Penn., is the only Prohibitionist in office today. He’s a retired tuba player for the U.S. Marine Band, and his political biography notes he was twice named Outstanding Individual Recyclerby the Pennsylvania Resources Council. “Our party has been tapering off for about 100 years, and Earl wasn’t doing anything to keep it going,” Hedges said. “He still can’t get used to the idea that he’s been replaced.” Dodge ignored the coup, held a party convention at a Baptist church and was again nominated for president. Hedges said the convention was simply a gathering of seven or eight family members and friends. Dodge insists there were as many as 25. “These other people — they all want to be big chiefs in a little pond,” he said. Thanks to the schism, Colorado voters will have two temperance parties to choose from in November. Unlike other states, Colorado doesn’t require a petition to get on the presidential ballot. No one actually knows how many members either party has. Hedges figures his group has two dozen or so and Dodge has fewerthan 200. The Rev. Gene Amondson is the candidate for the breakaway party. He’s an artist from Vashon Island, Wash., who travels the country reenacting the fiery antidrinking sermons of the late evangelistBilly Sun- day. Amondson, 60, describes himself as a “redneck, Bible- thumping preacher,” with a simple message: Drinking alcohol is stupid. “Alcohol has no taste at all; it’s just a burning sensation,” he said. “You don’t drink to have a good time; you drink to forget a bad time.” And he dismisses the story of Jesus turning water into wine. “If Jesus turned water into alcohol he wasn’t very bright about alcohol was he?” he said. “I think it was grape juice.” Dodge takes a more measured tone. He sees himself as standard bearer of a once great party that was among the first to fight for child labor laws, women’s suffrage and the right of workers to unionize. The Prohibition Party began in 1869 and was one of the first “third parties” in American history. Its symbol was the camel, a creature that drank little and then only water. Carry Nation, the hatchet-wielding zealot who chopped up saloons in the late 1800s, was probably the best-known antiliquor crusader. In 1920, the 18th Amendment was passed banning the sale of alcohol. Clandestine bars flourished while gangsters like Al Capone made fortunes running moonshine. Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Dodge believes it was a golden age in American history, a time when jail populations dropped, alcoholism decreased and the quality of life rose for everyone. He lectures around the country on the glories of those years. “I have, for many years, offered $20,000 to any student who would study the Prohibition era and could prove crime, alcohol consumption and other alcohol-related ills actually increased from 1920 to 1933,” Dodge told an audience at Yale University this year. “My money is still safe.” The father of seven doesn’t fit the stereotype of the priggish Prohibitionist. He is a chatty, good-natured man with a seemingly endless supply of historical anecdotes. His office is a shrine to tee- totalers gone by. One entire corner is covered with photos and memorabilia of President Coolidge, the taciturn New Englander who spoke so little he was nicknamed “Silent Cal.” “A woman once came up to Coolidge when he was eating and said, ‘I just bet my friend I could make you say three words,’” said Dodge, suppressing a chuckle. “Without missing abeat, Coolidge lifted his head and said, ‘You lose.’” Dodge grew up in Malden, Mass., outside Boston. He recalls walking by saloons and feeling nauseatedat the smell of stale beer. His parents didn’t drink and his Baptist church frowned on alcohol. He never drinkseither and calls those who do “drunkards.” In 1952, Dodge joined the Prohibition Party,and hehas spent more than three decades as national chairman. Over the years, he supplemented his income by driving a frozen food truck as well as selling cemetery plots and life insurance. Now he deals in old campaign buttons. The buttons bear the faces of politicians like Alf Landon, Wendell Wilkie, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and of course Earl Dodge, as leader of the Prohibition Party. Yet he understands politics enough not to be naive about his chances for higher office. “To me it’s a tremendous honor just to run,” he said. “But Iknow if I go to the White House, it will be on a publicly guided tour.” Ed Andrieski Associated Press CHAIRMAN: Earl Dodge of the Prohibition Party, who sells buttons for a living, holds his campaign button, left, and a novelty one. After party dissidents voted him out of office in Tennessee, he held a convention in Colorado that made him the nominee. ‘Our party has been tapering off for about 100 years, and Earl wasn’t doing anything to keep it going.’ James Hedges, on the decision by some Prohibitionists to split with National Chairman Earl Dodge The Worst Year for Prohibition Since 1933? A schism in the party has two candidates out to split the anti-alcohol vote — which was down to 208 in the 2000 presidential election. UPSTART: The Rev. Gene Amondson, the rival candidate, describes himself as a “redneck, Bible-thumping preacher.” By Tomas Alex Tizon Times Staff Writer SHELTON, Wash. — On Thursday night, in a small, back room of the local Burgermaster restaurant, a group of neighbors welcomed the man who plans to be the town’s newest transplant from California: convicted sex offender Brian DeVries. The peopleof this rural town of 8,500 welcomed him with questions, condemnations — and a promise of intense scrutiny. At the end of the meeting, his newneighbors said they were willing to give him a chance. Legally, they had no choice. DeVries, 45, the first man to graduate from California’s violent sex-offender treatment program, moved to Washington state on Monday, hours after being granted unconditional release by a Santa Clara County judge. He served sentences for molesting nine boys — although he admitted molesting at least 50. He then underwent seven years of treatment in a program for violent sex offenders at Atascadero State Hospital. He underwent voluntary surgical castration in 2001. Some residents of Shelton echoed Washington Gov. Gary Locke’s denunciation of DeVries’ release. Locke, in a statement, called the decision “outrageous.” California, he said, hadaban- doned its responsibility to watch over one of its most dangerous sex predators. DeVries was requiredto register with local police, which he did just days after arriving at his father’s house near Olympia, about 18 miles southeast of here. His plan, according to police, is to fix up an old trailer on some family property in the Shelton areaand move in as soon as possible. Devries, with the help of his father, Barry, initiated contact with local residents, saying he wanted to meet with them before he moved into the area. Resident Sherry Smith, founder of Parents Against Sex Offenders, led a successful campaign last year to thwart Devries’ earlierplan to move to Shelton. Some of DeVries five siblings live in the region, as do his parents, who are divorced. She organized the Thursday meeting, which was attended by about 15 neighbors and a detective from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. Devries, who is 6- foot-4 and weighs 245 pounds, sat in a small chair and meekly answered questions, some of them stinging. “How will you keep yourself safe?” one woman asked him. He replied that he was newly committed to his Christian faith, intendedto keep his impulses in check and plannedto have somebody accompany him to public places, such as supermarkets. Then DeVries added: “I don’t know. Will people ever feel at ease around me?” One man answered: “No. I never will. I don’t feel at ease looking at your face.” Thurston County Det. Daryl Leischner said he would check on DeVries once a week for as long as he livedwith his father in Olympia. Mason County Det. Bill Adam said he would check on DeVries once a month after he movedto the Shelton area. Mason County, with a rural population of about 54,000 people, has about 200 registered sex offenders. Of that number, 18 are considered Level 3 offenders, considered potentially the most dangerous. DeVries is a Level 3 offender. But both Leischner and Adam said DeVries appeared to be sincere in trying to live an upright life. “I hate to say it,” Leischner said, “but this is a case where only time will tell.” Under a 1996 California law, sexual offenders considered too dangerous to be released canbe held in state mental hospitals after serving their prison sentences. They canbe re-committed every two years or win release after successfully completing the treatment program. Washington state has a similar law. For the last year, DeVries lived under supervision in a trailer on the edge of the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad in Monterey County. He ended up there after more than 100 landlords in the Santa Clara area refused to rent to him dur- ingthe outpatient part of his treatment. A plan to release him into the custody of his father in Olympia was turned back after Locke and the Washington state attorney general threatened legal action. As part of his supervised treatment in Monterey, DeVries was required to participate in therapy, to register with police every 90 days, to submit to random searches and drug testing, and to wear a trackingdevice. His public defender, Brian Matthews, said that if DeVries had not gone through treatment, he could have spent the rest of his life at Atascadero. Just before the court unconditionally released him, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Robert Baines told him: “Good luck, Mr. DeVries, and for God’s sake, don’t prove me wrong.” Washington Town Warily Welcomes an Unusual Graduate Paul Sakuma Associated Press UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE: Brian DeVries, the first man to graduate from California’s violent sex-offender treatment program, leaves a Santa Clara courtroom last week. Shelton will scrutinize the first man to finish California’s sex-offender treatment program. Scott MacDonald The Californian CALIFORNIA PROTESTS: For the last year, DeVries lived under supervision in a trailer in Monterey County. Local residents and landlords were not happy to have him in the area.

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