Helen Blocker-Adams' decision had many effects

Blocker-Adams' support helped lift Copenhaver
Helen Blocker-Adams, a former mayoral candidate who is now a talk-radio host, made waves with a 2005 mayoral endorsement.

It's been five years and counting since her endorsement helped shape Augusta's political landscape the latter half of the decade, and Helen Blocker-Adams says she is still waiting.

 

Waiting for that luxury SUV the rumor mill had her getting for the political deal some alleged she cut. Waiting for that condo on the Hill for selling out.

"I'm like, 'Where's my new ride?,' " Blocker-Adams said with a laugh recently. "Where's my condo? Check out my bank account. I haven't gotten anything from these folks."

She freely jokes about the allegations she still hears occasionally on why she endorsed a white political newcomer, Deke Copenhaver, over fellow black and then-Interim Mayor Willie Mays in the 2005 mayoral runoff.

A political neophyte herself, Blocker-Adams barely lost out to Copenhaver for the spot in the runoff opposite Mays, a longtime Augusta Commission member who had been the top vote-getter among four candidates in the general election and had a realistic shot at being the city's second elected black mayor.

With no clear-cut favorite established in the runoff, Blocker-Adams' endorsement carried weight -- and much political intrigue.

She chose Copenhaver because his political positions best mirrored her own, Blocker-Adams said.

"For me to go ahead and endorse Willie, just because he's black, that would have been the only reason," she said. "There was nothing in his platform that was close to mine at all."

Her endorsement came right before Thanksgiving, and she admits to surprise at the reaction it soon provoked.

"I had a nice Thanksgiving at my family's house, and it was like, 'OK, maybe it's not that big of a deal,' " Blocker-Adams recalled. "Oh my gosh, the week after Thanksgiving, that's when the doo-doo hit the fan. And it stayed out there for a year."

Blocker-Adams caught grief from all directions, being called everything from an Uncle Tom to names unprintable.

"Everywhere I went. Especially, which was the most hurtful part, a lot of people that I knew," she said. "Even people who worked on my campaign, when I walked into a room, they'd turn their heads and walk in another direction. Or they would roll their eyes and wouldn't speak. Church, same way."

Copenhaver credits her endorsement with helping get him elected to finish the one-year unexpired term of Bob Young. After a year of experience and incumbency, Copenhaver won re-election handily in 2006, beginning a political ascendancy that will continue through at least 2014 after he cruised to victory for a second full term in November.

"I believe it had a significant impact," Copenhaver said of Blocker-Adams' backing. "It obviously brought people over to our side. She caught a lot of blow-back for it. But it certainly helped. There's no denying that."

Since running unsuccessfully as an independent for state representative in 2006, Blocker-Adams has put her energy into rebuilding her marketing and event planning company. She also hosts a local radio talk show on WKZK -- The Helen Blocker-Adams Show -- and has just published a book, Unlikely Allies: 8 Steps to Bridging Divides That Impact Leadership .

Not surprisingly, the book early on refers back to those turbulent times of 2005.

"I don't regret anything," Blocker-Adams said. "Knowing what I know, knowing what I experienced, I would do the same thing the same way. I did the right thing."

Read previous stories on Helen Blocker-Adams:

Copenhaver gets endorsement of Blocker-Adams

Blocker-Adams hears hostility

Helen Blocker-Adams

AGE: 51

OCCUPATION: Businesswoman; radio talk show host; community activist

FAMILY: Single

ACHIEVEMENTS: CEO/president of the HBA Group International, a community-development and business event planning company; Augusta mayoral candidate in 2005; state House of Representatives candidate in 2006; named one of the top 10 radio talk show hosts in 2010 by Black Talkers, a Web site covering the black talk media industry

WHY CHOSEN: Blocker-Adams helped shape the course of local politics in the latter half of the decade. The mayoral runoff election of 2005 to fill the one-year unexpired term of Bob Young was fraught with racial overtones.

Interim Mayor Willie Mays got the most votes among the four candidates in the general election (37 percent), while political newcomer Deke Copenhaver barely edged out Blocker-Adams, another political neophyte, to secure a spot in a runoff. Augusta Commissioner Tommy Boyles came in last with 15 percent.

After missing out on the runoff by 2 percentage points -- Blocker-Adams got 23 percent of the vote, while Copenhaver got 25 percent -- the question of whom she would support became highly charged. Would she back fellow black candidate Mays or would she cast her lot with the young white political upstart? Her decision to endorse Copenhaver solidified his chances in the runoff, where he handily defeated Mays 56 percent to 44 percent in a county where black registered voters outnumber their white counterparts.

Copenhaver's victory allowed him to gain a year of experience as mayor, and more important, gave him the coveted title of incumbent for the 2006 mayoral election. He easily won that election with 66 percent of the vote and was reelected to another four-year term in November.