Just what we need: An intense sheriff’s race in Augusta between a black Democrat and a white Republican, and a race between a black Democratic president and a white Republican challenger.
After the results Tuesday night set up that scenario, the jokes started flying – though all of them carried a serious, cautionary undertone.
“Anyone need an agent to put their Augusta house on the market?” asked one Realtor – who added, “Never mind; who’d buy it?”
One official wisecracked that we can expect a 10 percent hike in Columbia County’s property value next year as residents flee across the border.
The jokes turned serious the next day. Within a few hours, I’m told, nearly three dozen Richmond County Sheriff’s Office employees – including ranking officers – inquired about jobs in Columbia County.
Republicans have high hopes for the possible election of Freddie Sanders as Richmond County sheriff. Democrats have more realistic reasons for optimism because they have more voters, and President Obama is on their ticket.
The prospect is disconcerting. Scott Peebles, who ran as a Democrat out of necessity or perceived expediency rather than conviction (even though he claimed otherwise, to which everyone says “baloney”), was far and away the best, most-qualified candidate for Richmond County sheriff. No one can make a rational claim otherwise.
Yet Richard Roundtree beat him in the runoff, for two reasons that had nothing to do with law enforcement credentials: One, because Peebles’ supporters pushed such an air of inevitability that his voters didn’t bother to go back to the polls (see also: Whitehead vs. Broun, 2007); and two, because Roundtree’s ethnicity trumped all qualifications.
It’s an absolute, iron-clad certainty that Roundtree’s supporters would deny it, perhaps even to themselves, but that’s just the reality. Richmond County’s majority of black voters will vote in November for Roundtree because he is black and because he is a Democrat, sort of in that order. While there, they will vote for Obama because he’s black and because he is a Democrat.
Wait; did I just use the term “they”? Am I being “insensitive”? If so, that’s OK; I got it from Roundtree, in his comment after the election:
“I think the citizens of Augusta responded and said we’re not going to let them dictate our destiny,” Roundtree said.
“Them”? Really? Who’s “them”?
We’ll know soon enough, because many of “them” could be our new neighbors here in Columbia County. “They” might not leave the country if Obama is re-elected, but don’t be surprised if many of “them” quietly exit Richmond County now that a well-qualified cop has lost the election to a glorified community organizer who happens to be the right color.
As the bumper-sticker says: “Will the last person out of Augusta please turn off the lights?”
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/