For entertainment these days, Michigan hog farmer Mark Baker likes to watch episodes from the 1960s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. It’s the show where Andy is the sheriff of the fictitious small town of Mayberry, North Carolina, assisted by his trusty, and somewhat flaky deputy, Barney Fife.
Baker is drawn by the show’s portrayal of an old-fashioned county sheriff who operates much like the U.S. Constitution envisioned for the only law enforcement officer specified in the document—he’s locally oriented, trusting of his own, and suspicious of outside state and federal law enforcement types. Baker especially appreciates an episode in the sitcom in which Andy expresses suspicions about an FBI agent who comes to Mayberry supposedly to honor the town of Mayberry.
If FBI agents come into a particular county and tell the sheriff “we are going to do things this way, the county sheriff can say no, we are not going to do it this way.”
Baker’s special interest in county sheriffs stems from the fact that he is making his first foray into politics by running for sheriff in his Missaukee County, in Michigan. Just to make things interesting, he is running for sheriff as a write-in candidate, against a long-time incumbent, James D. Bosscher, who is in his 24th year as sheriff.
Baker was motivated to test the political waters after he endured some three years of fighting with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources over whether the pigs he raised on his farm were allowable under a questionable state agency order that barred supposedly feral pigs. He eventually prevailed when the state gave up the fight in a court case Baker brought, but Baker never forgot the refusal of his local sheriff to stand up on the farmer’s behalf.
“Most of the things the DNR wants to do are not in the purview of the Bill of Rights” of the U.S. Constitution, he says. He envisions himself “a constitutional sheriff” who will question federal or state agents who come after local farmers or other residents. “The FDA could be slapped on its heels by a constitutional sheriff….I will beat them every time.”
Baker says he decided to run a write-in campaign in part to avoid having to declare himself a Republican or Democrat, and be drawn into the party politics he finds distasteful. He also decided to run after other possible opponents declined the challenge. “Everyone is afraid of our sheriff. I would be, too, if I hadn’t had my thing with the DNR.”
As it is, running hasn’t been easy. “They systematically steal my signs,” he says. Many residents whom he knows support him are afraid to put out signs because they fear retribution from the incumbent if he wins.
Despite all that, Baker is confident of victory. Many residents who aren’t inclined to put up his signs have indicated they will vote for him in the privacy of the voting booth.
He has a fundraiser scheduled this weekend at his farm.”We are going to be feeding people this pig that got the whole thing going,” he jokes. Except he is very serious. “They only have the power we give them,” he adds.