Don't wanna talk about politics.
Sometimes it's not really what we say, it's the way we say it.
Case in point: A number of citizens took to the soap box -- and to the various anonymous gripe sites -- to complain about Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church Pastor the Rev. Lorenzo Heard's efforts to run for the Dougherty County School System School Board as an independent candidate after challenger Lane Price defeated incumbent Anita Williams-Brown in the July 31 Democratic Primary.
This man who brings the word of God for a living was vilified by some in the community, elements of his private life -- some of it factual, some of it based on small-town, small-minded rumor and innuendo -- were even brought into the discussion. For some in the community -- and let's be straight here and make that a large element of the white community -- the pastor of one of the most active black churches in Southwest Georgia became an element of "what's wrong with the Dougherty County School System" simply by announcing he wanted to run for the School Board.
(Full disclosure here: I, like many citizens in the community, wondered -- and I did so in print -- if there were not other factors motivating Heard's late entry into the race. Certainly comments from some prominent members of the black community in the wake of Heard's dismissal as a viable candidate did nothing to dispel such concern.)
But I'm amazed at the number who cried foul when Heard announced plans to run as an independent candidate. Even Price, who'd run a brilliant campaign that centered on the building of a unified black and white coalition of voters, chose to condemn Heard for his decision.
"The voters have already decided," she told Herald education reporter Terry Lewis. "I was elected by a vote of the community at-large, not just by one segment of our society. It is disturbing to me that racism is coming to the surface. ... This has nothing to do with the children of Dougherty County. This is all about maintaining power. Why did he not get in during the primary?"
What seems not to register with Dougherty County citizens -- Ms. Price among them -- is that Lorenzo Heard did nothing wrong when he announced plans to run as an independent candidate. Georgia law allows such a tactic, just so long as certain rules are met. Had Heard indeed followed those rules and turned in a valid notice of candidacy, paid his qualifying fee and collected the required number of signatures of registered voters, he had as much a right to run for office as Price did.
Tim Nelson did the same thing over in Lee County, following the required steps to qualify as an independent candidate in a quest to unseat County Commissioner Rick Muggridge. In fact, when Muggridge learned that Nelson had followed all the necessary steps to qualify as a candidate, the incumbent welcomed Nelson into the race.
I'm reminded of Jimmy Carter's 1976 run for the presidency when there was a push by some to throw Ted Kennedy's name into the mix at the Democratic Convention despite Carter's success in the primaries. Asked what he would do if Kennedy did indeed become a legitimate challenger for the nomination, Carter proclaimed, "I'll kick his ass."
Price would have come across as a lot stronger candidate had she done the same thing as Muggridge or Carter. Instead, she jumped on the "This is not fair" bandwagon, detracting somewhat from her well-designed and well-earned victory in the primary.
Heard, on the other hand, did not win any style points either when he suggested that the Elections Board stacked the deck against him when it ruled he had not met the qualifications to run as an independent candidate. His case would have been a little stronger if he'd met even one of the requirements. Zero-for-three is not a good day at the plate.
Heard tried to save a little face by saying after the board's ruling that he wasn't surprised, that he "expected" the board to rule as it did. When you turn in an invalid candidacy form, don't pay your qualifying fee and don't get the required number of signatures, I guess you would expect as much.
The question, one would carefully assume, realizing that this is Dougherty County, now becomes when students can expect the politics to end and the righting of wrongs to begin. It can't be soon enough.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.