Former McLendon-Chisholm mayor Robert Steinhagen, who has kept largely out of the public eye since his defeat by current Mayor Keith Short in the May elections last year, is attempting to make a comeback – this time with a conservative talk radio-style show on the YouTube channel “Conservatives for McLendon-Chisholm.”
Steinhagen has adopted the moniker of “Bunker Bob” for the series of videos, in an apparent tongue-in-cheek nod to his critics response to the conspiratorial videos.
Steinhagen, through the channel, has released 22 videos over the last two weeks. While the videos have covered various topics including the hot button issues of last year’s election – controversy surrounding the fire department, the extraterritorial jurisdiction exchange between McLendon-Chisholm and the city of Rockwall, and others – the more coarse selections from the past two weeks have made significant claims of corruption and deception against current McLendon-Chisholm officeholders and against the three candidates running against his former council members.
In a video attacking candidate William Dahl, dated April 20, Steinhagen makes the claim that Dahl and his family practice Hinduism.
“When he moved here last year… he and his family are Hindu, they decided to celebrate Diwali, which is the Festival of Lights” Steinhagen said. “Of course, no one in our community has any problem with that, that’s a wonderful celebration and a wonderful faith to really celebrate.”
Steinhagen used the topic as a segue to lambast Dahl for putting on a large fireworks show at the Diwali party, of which Steinhagen said the neighbors were not warned.
“It is simply not true,” Dahl told the Herald-Banner. “The serious and really large problem is that they are willing to weaponize religion against people. I believe this is a very dangerous path that they’ve chosen to take.”
Dahl further clarified that his family hosted the Diwali party in the spirit of inclusivity.
“Diwali is the one holiday in the Hindu calendar that all religions can celebrate equally,” Dahl said. “The holiday is about everybody coming together and being one, in unity.”
Steinhagen has yet to directly attack candidate Trudy Woessner, whose name he repeatedly mispronounces, though a number of the videos have focused on Dahl’s and Woessner’s fellow candidate Lorna Kipphut.
Kipphut and her husband Mark, both United States Air Force veterans, have been longtime vocal opponents of Steinhagen and the remaining (and running) members of his former council, Scott Turnbull and Adrienne Balkum.
Steinhagen’s criticisms of the Kipphuts came right out of the gate in the first episode of his YouTube show, dated April 11, in which he labels Mark and Lorna Kipphut (and a number of their political allies in last year’s election) as the “real liberals” in McLendon-Chisholm, ostensibly as opposed to his “true” conservatism.
Steinhagen claimed that Lorna Kipphut’s, Woessner’s and Dahl’s participation in the Rockwall County Democratic Party’s candidate forum two weeks ago as evidence that the trio are not “true conservatives.”
Kipphut told the Herald-Banner that she believes the ideological “purity tests” and attacks on her character are not helpful for McLendon-Chisholm.
“I think we have enough issues, enough to do without going into character assassinations,” Kipphut said. “I want to stick to the issues important to McLendon-Chisholm – that negative direction of attacking people and their families doesn’t benefit anyone, and it’s not how we do politics in Rockwall County.”
Kipphut also said that Steinhagen’s allegations of secret left-leaning politics are simply unfounded.
“I am a fiscally conservative Republican, and I have not wavered from that,” she said.
Steinhagen’s YouTube video series now tops 15 hours of run time. The impact of those 15 hours on the May 4 municipal elections, for which early voting has already begun, remains to be seen.