Back in 1998, a flier started circulating in black neighborhoods in Atlanta with pictures of Klansmen and burning crosses. The flier encouraged black voters to go vote against Republicans in statewide elections.
When John Eaves ran for chairman of the Fulton County Commission the first time, Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights era hero, recorded an ad that claimed “right-wing Republicans” in charge of the Fulton County Commission would be worse than “the dogs and water hoses in the street.” He concluded the ad imploring a vote for Democrats claiming “your very life may depend on it.”
Bibb County is no stranger to such ads either. Elections past have seen these advertisements crop up. During the runoff, anonymous postcards circulated in District 2 claiming Larry Schlesinger had broken laws and was behind a big highway expansion. Then the “Junebug and Trayvon” flier appeared. None of this campaign paraphernalia had identifying disclosures, which is a campaign law violation. I hope our district attorney will investigate and bring charges.
If we are not aggressive about such malicious, anonymous attacks, the attackers will be emboldened to continue their strategy just as the county is trying to put itself together. David Cooke, who has proven himself to be quite a decent DA, might just be the guy who will help us move beyond these issues.
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The fliers did not work. Credit where it is due, Adah Roberts showed great class by forcefully and pre-emptively rebuking the racially incendiary flier that brought Trayvon Martin into the Bibb County election. C. Jack Ellis likewise should be commended. Henry Ficklin, who had earlier suggested Sam Olens went easy on Schlesinger because they are both Jewish, gave a rather tepid rebuke of the latest flier.
That flier most likely did not persuade a soul to vote for or against anyone. It did, however, certainly remind people that the election was coming up. Turnout in my precinct for the runoff was consistently heavy throughout the day. People who did not vote in the primary remembered to vote in the runoff.
On one personal twist, I changed my vote to Mallory Jones in the runoff. Let this be a lesson to every local politician. Jones showed up on my doorstep. We had a very nice conversation. He certainly earned my vote. He took the time, even knowing I had supported his opponent, to stop by and chat. If Jones puts even half the energy into office that he put into running for office, we will all be well served.
That, of course, brings us to the hard work of actually governing now. The men and women who will make up the new united government will set precedents for years to come, both on procedure and demeanor. We should all say a prayer for them. Most exciting for the county, it appears there will be a sizable majority that can get much good done while marginalizing those most likely to stir up trouble on the commission.
One issue the commission will have to act quickly on is establishing clear bright lines on commission involvement in personnel matters. This was constantly a problem during my time on the Macon City Council. With a number of former council members now becoming commissioners, the problem will cross over.
Council members became notorious for protecting preferred employees and employees knew they could do end runs around the mayor by crying to favored members of council. This should be shut down before it starts.
From there, our united county has so much it can accomplish. Finally, we can move forward together with one voice.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.