A liberal trial lawyer touting his youth working on a farm who is running for the Senate in rural Iowa is suing his next-door neighbor in a gated vacation home community over chickens she uses as therapy animals for autistic children.
Residents of Holiday Lake in Brooklyn, Iowa, have been shocked by the un-neighborly attitude of Bruce Braley, candidate for the U.S. Senate, who has decided to start suing people over the chickens instead of just talking it out as good neighbors should.
Braley has made an issue out of his days as a youth working in agriculture trying to raise sympathy with voters in a largely rural state full of farmers. He even touted his farming history in his first campaign ad. Even so, the candidate has made several missteps seeming to insult farmers instead of laud them.
In March video, for instance, Braley is seen denigrating farmers and praising trial lawyers in front of big money donors in Texas, a gaffe that even the left-leaning Slate called “the gaffe of the year.”
“If you help me win this race,” Braley said in a Jan. 23 video made at a fundraiser in Corpus Christi, Texas, “you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone’s who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
“Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Braley continued. “Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Braley made another gaffe in July when he oddly claimed that he was a farmer despite that he has spent most of his adult life as a trial lawyer. Again this one ended up on video.
Now Braley is being seen as a chicken hater and haughty neighbor over a dispute with a local resident who uses the animals for therapy. Braley is threatening to sue the woman even though his homeowner association has already made efforts to address the fact that the neighbor’s chickens have crossed into Braley’s yard.
Braley’s legal threats have caused the association nearly $2,000 in legal fees already. But even though the association is making moves to correct the problem, the Senate candidate seems unwilling to give them the chance and is threatening more legal action.
“It’s stupid that it went this far. Any reasonable person would have talked to their neighbor in a reasonable fashion instead,” said Bill Nagle, an association board member, told The Iowa Republican. “For being brought up on a farm, he sure has lost his rural, farm values.”
The homeowners association determined that neighbor Pauline Hampton’s chickens were not a violation of association rules and gave her the proper 30-day-period to make sure the birds don’t stray from her own yard, but this wasn’t good enough for Braley who continues to threaten legal acton.
“You really can’t publish what my opinion is,” said association board secretary Terry Maxfield. “I think it was petty. For someone with a higher education like that, it was petty. It was a waste of resources and money.”
The Iowa paper was given a cache of emails between Mrs. Hampton and the association board. Hampton is a licensed therapist, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and a registered Democrat. In the emails, Hampton says, “Seems it would be better to withdraw it since her husband is running for office in a farming state as well as he has now signed on to support the Court Appointed Special Advocate program to which I am a volunteer and have several special needs children assigned to my case.”
“It [is] very important the citizens of Iowa know who they would be supporting and voting for to represent their best interests and the interests of farmers, and in [this] particular case, the support of children with mental illness and disabilities. It’s sad this situation is based on something as simple as a chicken at large situation,” Hampton told the paper.
Sadly, Hampton found out about the lawsuit threats when she went to the Braley’s home acting the good neighbor by offering some fresh eggs from those very chickens. Braley’s wife brusquely refused to accept the gift. Hampton also pointed out that so far the Braleys are the only neighbors to refuse the gift of the eggs.
The dispute has angered not just a single neighbor and the association board. When residents attended a recent association meeting they discovered that the profits they all made from hosting a triathlon were eaten up by expenses incurred because of the Braleys’ legal challenge.
“How do I say this without putting barnyard talk in? I have no love for Bruce Braley, because he should have been a big enough man to address it in a more civil manner,” Nagle told the media. “That’s the thing right here: common sense just does not happen to exist in this case.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.