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A race in which race doesn’t matter?

Published 9:57am Saturday, March 10, 2012

Former Franklin City Manager June Fleming, a trailblazer who grew up in the shadows of Little Rock’s Central High School before rising to the highest levels of civil service, likes to say that being first is overrated.

Fleming, the first African-American city manager of bustling Palo Alto, Calif., looks forward to the day, undoubtedly coming, when being black and holding an important position is no longer newsworthy.

We’re not quite there yet, so the serious candidacy of Raystine Johnson – who, if victorious on May 1, would become Franklin’s first female mayor and its first black mayor elected by popular vote—is worth noting.

Her story would be less interesting if she were on the victory path of least resistance: consolidating and energizing the African-American vote in a city that is majority-black. Council colleague Greg McLemore, if he stays in the three-candidate race, will ensure that doesn’t happen. Even 150 votes, which McLemore is bound to get, would prevent a Johnson win strictly along racial lines.

Rather, Johnson’s candidacy is remarkable because of the strong biracial support she is building—a coalition unprecedented in the city’s political history. For now, her white support is behind the scenes but significant in both its depth and prominence, including several business and civic leaders who historically have been among incumbent Mayor Jim Councill’s strongest supporters. Expect many of them to go public with their support of Johnson in the weeks ahead.

Councill, seeking a ninth term as mayor, is in the political fight of his life—in several ways more challenging than his unsuccessful bid a few years back to succeed his father in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Johnson’s campaign pledge of restoring the job of mayor to the ceremonial, gavel-wielding, one-vote position intended by the drafters of the city charter has struck a chord with many voters. She represents a stark contrast —in ways far beyond skin color—to the incumbent she seeks to unseat.

Councill has some experience himself with biracial politics. He has enjoyed small but steady African-American support throughout his political career.

A mayoral race in which voters cast their ballots based on the philosophies and positions of superbly qualified candidates—as opposed to their skin color—is refreshing and a sign, regardless of the outcome, that we’re getting closer to the colorblind society Fleming envisions.

  • Makalani

    “Hmmm!” In paragraph six there is a “… subliminal [message]…“
    “People must vote for Jim Council… People must vote for Jim Council…People must vote for Jim Council…” lol

    Other than the subliminal messages — the editorial seemed pretty straightforward — contrasting Ms. Johnson and Mayor Councill’s “mayoring” philosophies and pointing out that the two Black candidates will likely split the Black vote. That is a political reality — not a figment of anyone’s imagination or a “grand conspiracy” orchestrated by the “rich.”

    Suffice to say — I have cast a “few votes” during my 67 years and can honestly say that no newspaper editorial has ever influenced my vote. Other reasonably intelligent voters could probably make the same claim. Most voters can probably decide for themselves who would represent their best interest as mayor — be it Councilman McLemore — Ms. Johnson or the incumbent. The editor is not some “pied piper” playing tunes on his “magical keyboard” making voters follow him in lockstep! Most thinking people don’t like to be told how to think!

    Even if this piece was an “endorsement” — which it was not — it would probably turn off as many voters as it would sway.

    RE: “A race in which race doesn’t matter?”

    If past history is any indication of future voting patterns — how ever the mayoral race plays out — race plays (pun intended) a pivotal role — as usual. Our society still has a ways to go before people will “… not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. “

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  • Conservetive

    Steve Stewart is the personification of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He would have you believe and lead his readers to believe that Councilman McLemore is any more racist than Rastine Council to discretely persuade people to divide the votes of both races that want to see Council step down. The fact that he uses code words, and subliminal messages in his writings do not fool everyone; just enough people to create the division needed between the voters to retain Jim Council in office to do the bidding of the affluent. The worst nightmare of the rich in Franklin like Mr. Stewart is to see Councilman McLemore a champion of all citizens elected to the office because they know he is not a YESMAN or WOMAN. He would have you believe that Ms. Johnson would do something for the 99% over the 1% rich. I truly hope the 99% of Franklin don’t fall for this clever trick being played on the citizens of Franklin to insure that Jim Council is re-elected for the 9th term. In 2008 Crumb was used to divide the people from McLemore being elected and now that he has earned more support across the City, the rich have recruited Ms. Johnson to do their bidding. If the people truly want to see evident change and progress the ONLY choice is Councilman McLemore. When people can’t refute your facts or logic they will resort to attack your personality or character. WHY are they so afraid of Mayor McLemore, how much worst can he do than the situation Council and Johnson have already put this City in? DON”T FALL FOR THE TRICK of the rich. If they REALLY wanted Jim out they would not have created a third candidate!!!!! Councilman McLemore will, on his record continue to win Wards 3,4 & 5 as he has done in the last two elections. Most African Americans won’t vote for Rastine Johnson no more than they would have voted for Cain and his 999 plan just because he is black.

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    • happycamper

      Holy crow!! You really seem paranoid! I suggest you stop looking for enemies behind every pine tree!

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