Last week, former mayor and hope-to-be-future mayor of Macon-Bibb County, C. Jack Ellis, took issue with Telegraph columnist Erick Erickson. Last Sunday, Erickson wrote a column that basically said C. Jack scared white people. Ellis, during a press conference, said Erickson was out to suppress the black vote and increase white voter turnout for the Oct. 15 runoff. He challenged Mayor Robert Reichert to repudiate Ericksons column. His challenge went unanswered, but Ellis knew it would be. That wasnt the point.
As you are surely aware, Erickson and I see life through distinctly different prisms. However, on this point, he is spot on. Erickson only said publicly what many are saying not-so-privately.
I can understand why Ellis is grasping at straws. He said on election night that his campaign had done all it knows how to do to get the vote out. He failed, as did the other 30 candidates on the various ballots.
The truth is, nobody can fathom what goes through the minds of people who fail to vote. In Bibb County, 47,283 registered voters fell into that category on Sept. 17. Another 16,000 voters were purged over the summer because they had not voted in two General Elections. Even Barack Obama couldnt pry them from their comfortable ignorance.
Its comical that Ellis would poist that Erickson, with his super-spiffy prose, could suppress the vote. Oh, if that were only true. At least then we could muzzle Erickson, throw him in a closet somewhere and up the turnout.
What more could voters have wanted this time around? There were six candidates running for mayor and 25 others seeking district posts. Not one office went unchallenged, and still, thousands of registered voters suffered from self-imposed rigor mortis.
Ellis understands that his pathway to victory, while not impossible, is very narrow. In 2011, in a city-only General Election, 17,071 voted (37.6 percent). In the runoff, which Ellis lost to Reichert, 3,000 more voters appeared at the polls than did during the General Election period, a very unusual occurrence. Will the Oct. 15 runoff produce a repeat? Who knows?
There are certain voting patterns that can be inferred from previous elections, and all those inferences spell bad news for Ellis. Hes weak in the Rutland, Howard, Hazzard and Warrior precincts where Reichert ran strong.
In the Howard precincts Reichert had a 12-1 vote margin. If Ellis doesnt get his vote out in the city precincts it will be a short night. Frankly, Ellis needs to spend more time, effort and money getting his vote out rather than trying to change a lot of minds in areas where he has no chance of winning.
One inference that needs to see the dustbin is the notion that black folks vote color rather than substance. Such thinking discount Ellis campaign acumen. Ellis obviously won some white support in 2011 and again this year. You have to give him his props, he is a great campaigner. Its also obvious there were many African Americans who went to the polls and put an electronic X next to Reicherts name in the past two elections.
The odd man out in all of this is Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart. His campaign didnt get any traction. But ask me and Ill tell you where he can fit into the new government after the final decisions are made next month.
While Hart is certainly disappointed, all of the candidates, even the winners, have to be feeling the same. They put their lives on hold while campaigning, and all they are met with are empty chairs at forums. They walk the streets knocking on doors; they raise and spend money, and no matter what you think of them, most have the communitys welfare at heart.
I can see the thought bubble above their heads as they ask themselves, Why do I put myself and my family through all of this for people who couldnt give a flip?
Thats why Ive always said, to run for elected office, a candidate has to be a little touched in the head.
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at (478)744-4342 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.