As you may recall, I met former mayoral candidate Helen Blocker-Adams a few months ago and thought she was very cool. She came in third in the election; the two leaders, Deke Copenhaver and interim mayor Willie Mays, are having a runoff next week. Blocker-Adams ended up endorsing Copenhaver, which I thought made sense given that their campaigns and platforms were similar.
However, there seems to be quite a bit of backlash over her endorsement of the white candidate! From the Augusta Chronicle (reg. required):
There have been the people who look the other way when she walks into a room. Some roll their eyes when they encounter her. But being called a traitor to her race is what has caught the former mayoral candidate most by surprise.
But, she said, her campaign was never about race.
“I won’t say that I’m surprised, probably disappointed that you got a group of people of color, people who look like me, who are not broad-minded enough to think that why does race have to be a factor in everything,” she said. “That’s not how I was brought up.”
The recipient of her endorsement, Mr. Copenhaver, said he is aware of the flak Mrs. Blocker-Adams is catching, and he, too, is disappointed.
“I would tell you that I’m more disappointed than surprised,” said Mr. Copenhaver, a political newcomer like Mrs. Blocker-Adams, who received 25 percent of the votes Nov. 8. “And I think Helen is a courageous woman for endorsing me, but the time I’ve spent out there throughout the community, I think the vast majority of people – that’s not black people or white people, it’s just the people of this community – are really ready to move past the racial politics that we’ve seen in the past.”
Another bit of criticism that stings Mrs. Blocker-Adams is the belief by some that The Augusta Chronicle endorsed her to split the black vote and ensure that Mr. Mays wouldn’t win outright, thereby allowing one of the two white candidates, Mr. Copenhaver or former Augusta Commissioner Tommy Boyles, to be part of a runoff.
“Whether there’s a conspiracy on why the endorsement was for me versus someone else, I really honestly, sincerely believe that The Chronicle was sincere in why they endorsed Helen Blocker-Adams,” she said, pointing out that she announced her intentions to run for mayor May 19, a couple of months before Mr. Mays declared.
Michael Ryan, the newspaper’s editorial page editor, said The Chronicle had no hidden agenda in endorsing Mrs. Blocker-Adams.
“It’s a sad statement about race relations – and the grip that the race hustlers have on some people in Augusta – when The Chronicle can’t endorse a black female for mayor without there being some perceived underlying motive,” he said. “That’s the height of both cynicism and racism. Not to mention the fact that it sells Mrs. Blocker-Adams short to suggest that we’ve got to have some motive other than her qualifications in order to endorse her. Plus, we felt strongly that she had the most potential among all the candidates to unite Augusta across racial lines.”
I would have liked to have seen Blocker-Adams in office, but I think Copenhaver is a good choice, too. (Of course, right now I live in Columbia County, so I can’t vote in that election anyway.)
(Side note: Isn’t it cute that Blocker-Adams and Copenhaver both said they weren’t surprised, but disappointed? Do you think they got together to plan their reactions beforehand? ;>)