ERICKSON: Scaring all the white voters

September 20, 2013 

Can we be honest with ourselves? Tuesday night’s election had a lot to do with race in our community. We try to move past it often, but we often fail. Some just can’t move on. Others move too quickly.

The precincts wherein C. Jack Ellis, Sam Hart, Charlie Bishop and Robert Reichert picked up votes were predictable. Ellis and Hart got strong support from predominately black precincts, Reich­ert and Bishop from white precincts. Looking at the precinct turnout and vote, Hart and Reichert did a far better job of reaching across the racial divide than either Ellis or Bishop did.

Hart’s campaign was anemic, to say the least. But he was able to find support across the county. Bishop made little headway in east Macon. Ellis showed strong in areas of high black population, but not so much in the precincts outside the city limits where many fled during his mayoral administration.

Because Ellis, after leaving office, did not work to be a bridge builder between communities in Macon and because of his divisiveness in office, he is going to have a hard time in the runoff. Reichert has worked very hard to build bridges -- sometimes refusing to burn bridges that should have been set ablaze -- but it paid off for him Tuesday night.

There are at least 160 voters in north Macon who woke up Wednesday scratching their heads, realizing they forgot to go vote. They will this time. Reichert does not scare black voters the way Ellis scares white voters. The runoff, with a built-in fear factor, should proceed in Reichert’s favor.

Looking at the other races, those who worked the hardest were mostly rewarded. I supported Beverly Olson because I know her and go to church with her. But Mallory Jones had to be the hardest working candidate in Bibb County outside the mayoral race. It paid off and I suspect he will be rewarded in the runoff. Given his hard work, he will have earned it.

Scotty Shepherd, Al Tillman, Bert Bivins and Elaine Lucas all ran strong races and it showed at the polls. I was actually surprised, and was not alone in being surprised, by how anemic so many of the campaigns were. At least these candidates worked hard.

My neighborhood, divided between districts, highly likely to vote, and with more than one contested race, saw virtually no candidates knocking on doors.

Then there is the runoff in District 2 between Henry Ficklin and Larry Schlesinger. Larry, very wisely, saved his money. My hope is that he will be able to get his supporters back out for the runoff. With the mayoral race into a runoff, it gives Ficklin an advantage he would not otherwise have with Ellis trying to remobilize voters. But black voters typically turn out in substantially fewer numbers during a runoff. That will be to Ficklin’s and Ellis’ disadvantage unless they can figure out how to overcome it.

There is one other angle to this election worth considering. This is the first major election in our city in quite a while without Kenny Burgamy and Charles Richardson on the air. WMAC, which for years played a valuable role in the community, has given up to a nationally syndicated morning show. While others have attempted to fill that void, none have really matched what Kenny and Charles did for so long. As we head to the most important election in our county in quite a while, that void leaves many less informed and less engaged than they otherwise would be.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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