Scurrilous flier sows Macon election dissension

jgaines@macon.comJuly 19, 2011 

An anonymous flier purporting to endorse a number of candidates in Tuesday’s election is drawing widespread condemnation for its tone and racist caricatures.

The four-page flier appeared in some mailboxes and driveways during the weekend in east Macon and the Greenbriar area west of downtown, said Al Tillman, founder of Unity-N-Community and former president of the Macon-Bibb County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He denounced the flier at a Monday news conference, which a number of City Council members and candidates attended.

“We don’t know who put this out,” Tillman said. But he suggested one clue might come from the places and times it was distributed.

“I don’t believe that white people have walked at two and three and four o’clock in the morning and placed these,” Tillman said.

The flier urges people to vote against incumbent Mayor Robert Reichert, incumbent council members Lauren Benedict, Mike Cranford, Tom Ellington, Charles Jones and Larry Schlesinger; council challengers Chris Horne and Ron Lemon; and Senate District 26 candidate Miriam Paris. Of those, all are white except for Jones and Paris.

Another page voices support for mayoral candidates Robert Brown and C. Jack Ellis; council incumbents Henry Ficklin and Elaine Lucas; challengers Stanley Brown, Gerald Harvey, Sarah Hunt, Henry Gibson and Danny Glover; House District 139 candidates James Beverly and Anissa Jones; and Senate District 26 candidate David Lucas. All of the endorsed candidates are black.

Another page denounces The Telegraph with a crude, racist cartoon, while the final page contains blurbs on propaganda techniques.

Bibb County Democratic Party Chairman Daryl Morton issued a statement denouncing the flier’s “racist and inflammatory images and rhetoric,” which will only further divide the party and community at a time when unity is desperately needed.

“I challenge the candidates who were endorsed in this flier and others whose goal it is to see Macon flourish to stand up and denounce this tactic as detrimental to both our Party and our community,” Morton wrote.

On Facebook, Reichert said this election is not about race but individuals’ qualifications and records.

“I can only hope that this misguided message, and the twisted minds that published it, will not be successful in influencing progressive, forward thinking people on Tuesday to vote in this fashion,” he said. “The best-qualified candidates, based on these criteria and regardless of race, need to be elected to pull our community together, and not tear it apart.”

A second flier that was circulated in the Shirley Hills area urges people there to vote Republican and to vote only in the Nov. 8 general election. It supports Bobby Gale, the Irwinton minister running in the July 19 special election for the House District 139 seat; and City Council candidates Nancy White and Beverly Knight Olson, who are unopposed and therefore won’t appear on Tuesday’s ballot.

Bibb County Republican Party Chairwoman Suzanne Wood said in a statement that the second flier is clearly designed to suppress crossover votes by Republicans in the Democratic primary.

“The Bibb County Republican Party calls on the elected leaders of the Shirley Hills area, in particular Elaine Lucas, to publicly condemn this type of vile behavior,” she wrote.

Monday afternoon, Lucas said she had no knowledge of the flier. “I don’t know anything about any flier,” she said. “I have no comment on anything.”

Not all candidates endorsed by the flier were reached for comment, but all those who were reached said they had no firsthand knowledge of it. Several repudiated its message.

Brown campaign spokesman Doug Bennett said Monday that he hadn’t seen the flier, but that Brown’s campaign had nothing to do with it.

Ellis said he’d only heard of its contents.

“Obviously, I think it’s despicable and should be condemned to the highest heights,” Ellis said.

Beverly, who attended Tillman’s gathering, said his real concern is dealing with poverty, and everyone in the House district must work together to alleviate that.

Council candidates Gibson and Harvey said they hadn’t seen it, while Glover posted on Facebook that he “cannot endorse the messages distributed in the Underground Press.”

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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