The NAACP played a role in the 2013 Pascagoula municipal elections, actively encouraging black Democratic voters to crossover in the city’s Republican primary to unseat the incumbent councilmen. They spun facts in favor of their overhyped narrative and openly made false claims of racism to push their position while driving crossover voters to the polls.
I know. I was an incumbent councilman who ran for mayor.
What drove their involvement? Two main points.
The city council had chosen not to reappoint the only black member of the Pascagoula School Board after an extensive interview process revealed that he was not the most qualified candidate at the time up for consideration (he misspelled ‘education’ wrong in a PowerPoint presentation four times as an example) nor was he acting independently in his decision making (the superintendent attempted to furnish softball questions to a councilman prior to the interview so as to make him appear more knowledgeable than he was).
That black member was replaced by a white female, the only female to have served on the Pascagoula School Board in many years; she, too, was a minority.
Not reappointing the black member resulted in cries of racism and hatred from the white superintendent and the NAACP because neither got what they wanted. As one said during the episode, “It doesn’t matter if he’s the most qualified or not. It’s just that he’s black and the black community deserves a seat on the school board.”
Our council chose qualifications over skin color, and I would do it again for the betterment of every student.
Another issue arose when one of Pascagoula’s finest made a traffic stop one evening. The police officer was drawn on by the perpetrator and the officer shot the man. Both the officer and the perpetrator were black.
The president of the county NAACP went on a media tour against the city, saying that Pascagoula used black men as “target practice.”
Even after the investigation was completed justifying the officer’s actions the NAACP continued that narrative, using it as a racial jab at our council and staff.
Soon thereafter the NAACP requested a donation from the city. The city council denied the request given their verbal attacks on the city and its staff.
Had an apology been offered for the divisive and out of line comments the city council may have looked on the request more favorably. However the sheer mention of an apology made the NAACP president angry and he committed to unseating the council.
During the 2013 municipal campaign the NAACP held an event and invited mayoral candidates to mingle and speak. I did not attend given the recent history between the organization and the city council.
My main primary opponent did, which wasn’t a surprise. He was being backed by outside money, local special interests and had a history of supporting Democrats.
My conscience and principles, however, would not allow me to pander to an organization whose leader had routinely misrepresented the city council and city staff, whether it cost me an election or not.
And it did.
The NAACP helped turnout the black vote against me and my colleagues in the Republican primary. My opponent won by just enough to avoid a runoff.
To put an exclamation mark on their crossover voting, the NAACP president appeared before the city council before the transition of the boards. He used his time to gloat about how he and his organization drove black Democrats to the polls to make sure we didn’t win, conveniently forgetting that it was he who instead of discussing issues made off the cuff, outlandish claims against us.
But as I told him, I still lay my head on my pillow with comfort knowing I did the right thing.
So I know a thing or two about losing the way Chris McDaniel believes he lost. It’s tough, heartbreaking, and unsettling, but he needs to ask himself, as I did, if he wants to win the way he’s trying to win.
I knew state election law and despite my initial reaction to challenge I knew proving voter intent in this open primary state that does not require party registration was a doomed proposition, just as I believe McDaniel understands.
Did I believe my message and my actions were warranted even though the NAACP spun it as divisiveness, misleading voters? Yes, just as I believe McDaniel sees his stances on balancing the budget, doing away with the Department of Education, reducing entitlement spending, and non-commitment on flood insurance and farm aid was spun against him.
Did I like known Democrats supporting what I believed to be the less conservative candidate over me and choosing the Republican nominee? No, of course not, but I didn’t go around seeking to divide the party or my city I love to stroke my ego or make a statement I knew ultimately would not change the outcome. I still had to live, work, and raise a family here, and I still wanted to make a difference, not burn every bridge or ostracize myself longterm.
McDaniel needs to consider the same.
Despite my feelings I didn’t lose because someone cheated me or took what was mine; I lost because I didn’t shore up my left flank. I didn’t play the game as the rules allowed, whether because of my principles or because I didn’t think it necessary. Either way, I lost and they won.
And I learned a lesson – open primaries require candidates to have a wider appeal than what their natural inclination deems necessary.
While the narrative of a challenge is attractive to some in the McDaniel camp, especially those on the fringe who have blinders on regarding the impact of this election in November or the talk radio crowd who either doesn’t understand state election law or want to continue as a way to raise money and drive anti-establishment sentiment, it will not end well if the ultimate goal is the implementation of conservative policies longterm.
One election is not the end of the conservative movement. The McDaniel camp moved the needle in Mississippi politics. If they want to continue to see it move as we head into 2015 how they act now matters. They either expand their base or marginalize it. They should hold their heads high, regroup, learn where their weaknesses were, and prepare for the next battle if it’s truly about advancing the conservative cause.
You see, helping Harry Reid retain control of the US Senate isn’t conservative or principled.
Voting for Democratic nominee Travis Childers who supports Medicaid expansion and in turn Obamacare isn’t conservative or principled.
Refusing to vote for the Republican nominee out of spite when it only helps liberals isn’t conservative or principled.
As someone who understands how it feels to lose as Chris McDaniel lost, I’ll be the first to say it is heartbreaking, but it is not the end of the world for him or his supporters.
Yet the longer he allows his feelings to trump his better judgement with the ultimate prize being 51 Senate seats the more he hurts himself, his supporters, the conservative cause and his state.
After all, politics is about the people, not just one person. McDaniel still has to live, work, raise a family and serve in the state senate. He must ask himself if a challenge in this fashion given the extreme divisiveness is worth all of those things and more in his name.
If it’s not about him, I trust he will soon bow out respectfully. If he doesn’t, then we know where his heart truly lies.