Just who is this Shellnut running for county sheriff?


His name is J. D. Shellnut, and in the campaign bumper sticker - splashed with red, white and blue and slapped on a light post outside of the Sheriff's Office in Bel Air - he proclaims in large, block letters that he wants to be the next sheriff.

"The law's on my side," the sticker reads.

In recent months, a crowded field of candidates for sheriff has emerged.

Though Sheriff R. Thomas Golding announced last week that he was dropping out of the race, two have filed to run for the seat and at least three others are waiting in the wings.

Shellnut's name, however, has been on the lips of those watching the race, but for a different reason.

No such candidate has registered with the county election board.

The phone book lists a "Shellkopf" and "Shelloe" - but no Shellnut in Harford County.

In a Google search, the name turns up on the Myspace.com profiles of a few grungy rockers from Tennessee and Illinois.

As it turns out, the reference is from the 1996 movie Sling Blade, in which a character played by Dwight Yoakum tells a neighbor, "I told you three times already, the law's on my side! I play cards with J. D. Shellnut, chief of PO-lice!"

Which raises the question: Who would go out of their way to print up bumper stickers for a phony campaign?

Ronald P. Culberson, a Virginia-based consultant who conducts seminars on injecting humor into everyday life, said it's likely nothing more than a college prank. But the more telling result may be if some voters actually vote for "J. D. Shellnut" as a write-in candidate.

"[The perpetrators] might not be happy with the candidates and are seeing how much support they can get with an artificial one," he said. "If they get any votes, they'll probably feel they've been successful."

Robert B. Thomas, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, dryly welcomed the phony candidate.

"He's a coy guy, doesn't say much and hasn't been seen around a lot," Thomas quipped.

The movie line, while obscure, has caught on with some in cyberspace and appears randomly on message boards and other Web sites.

Jonathan D. Shelnut (He spells it with one l), a 33-year-old author of children's poetry from Lakeland, Fla., said he's heard the reference a few times.

"That's actually the movie that made me a fan of Billy Bob Thornton," he said, referring to the director, writer and star of the film, a drama that was a sleeper hit.

And for the record, this Shelnut is not running for sheriff of Harford County.

"No, I am not," he said with a laugh. "But I've contemplated it."


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