Samuel Gregory is a Democratic candidate for Jasper County Council in Jasper, South Carolina. He is seeking to unseat fellow Democrat Martin Sauls. Gregory recently found himself the subject of local news when he made this post on his personal Facebook page:
When contacted after his post by the Jasper County Sun, Gregory said that he didn’t think his post was racist: “I didn’t make any racist statements…If anyone was offended by my comments I would like for them to prove me wrong.” Gregory went on to make additional comments that could easily be interpreted as stereotypical or racist: “For years, black people have voted for white people openly, but whites won’t do the same.”
Naturally, many condemned Gregory’s comments, including his opponent, Martin Sauls: “I think it is a shame that type of mindset still exists. Especially by someone who is looked at by some as a public figure.”
A few points. I will not pretend to understand what Mr. Gregory was thinking when he made this post, or how it’s not racist. As a public official, regardless of party or ideology, you are supposed to represent ALL of your constituents. This means being dedicated to the needs of everyone – not just the members of your own race. Gregory’s comments indicate a racial insensitivity and a lack of understanding of this basic tenant of democracy. From a purely strategic perspective, I really don’t know what he was thinking. According to census numbers, Jasper county is 51% white and 46.5% black. While it is probable that much of the electorate of Jasper’s Democratic party is African-American, I suspect that many within that community would find Jasper’s remarks racist, as many whites unquestionably do as well. This is clearly a strategic blunder – you do not paint yourself as the candidate of a particular faction when it is going to come at the expense of other votes.
What do you think – do I have the strategic implications here right? Let me know in the comments!