Years later, question persists: Why didn't I run for mayor again?

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To my supporters, friends and fans in Augusta, I wish to submit my sincere apologies to those who thought that, in the 2005 Augusta mayoral election, I stepped down to avoid a runoff. I did not step down – quite the opposite.

The system only allows for two top candidates to participate in the runoff. Since our local elections has to use the same process, I’ll explain it to the best of my understanding.

In Georgia, if a candidate doesn’t receive 50 percent plus1 vote when all of the votes are cast, the first two top vote getters have to go into a runoff. The runoff election generally is held about three weeks after the election. All states do not necessarily operate that way, but that is the case here in Georgia. There were four of us in the race, and my percentage of 23 percent placed me in third place.

I’ve been asked literally hundreds of times from diverse groups of people – many of whom I do not know – if I was going to run for office again. Recently I had a long conversation with a friend who suggested that I “set the record straight.”

Friends, I had no choice. I didn’t step down, nor did I give up. I simply didn’t have enough votes to make the first- or second-place slot. I had an awesome 8,l49 votes, which placed me at 23 percent of the vote. Deke Copenhaver had 25 percent of the vote and Willie Mays had 34 percent.

CERTAINLY IT bothers me deeply that my supporters would think that I stepped down just to endorse another candidate. No, quite the contrary, because our game plan all along was to win the race without a runoff. That was my plan – no hidden agendas, no gimmicks. We simply were in it to win it.

The community needed change then and still needs change now! And the new kids on the block (Deke and I) represented change.

We had a mayor who voluntarily stepped down before his term was up to take a job after being appointed by the president of the United States. A special election was held six months later, and whoever won had to run again in 2006 for the full four-year term. My interest was helping to build unity and continuity during a delicate time in local politics in Augusta.

My endorsement of our current mayor was based on his platform being similar to mine, and that he also represented fresh, new ideas; a new face; and a moving-forward attitude that this community desperately needs.

My friend also told me that many people had their dreams embedded in me in my quest for mayor – and the fact that I didn’t run again after endorsing the candidate who ultimately won the race in 2005 appeared that I had “given up.” Others saw it as being a sell-out because I didn’t endorse candidate Mays.

But that wasn’t the case. There were two political neophytes in the race and two well-established politicians. My campaign would have been a joke – since I represented a fresh voice and new ideas as a leader in this community who simply wanted to make a difference – if I endorsed anyone other than Deke Copenhaver.

I didn’t run again because I wanted to see consistency and a continued move forward for the betterment of our beautiful city – most importantly, for the sake of unity in our community. I realize that I disappointed many supporters, especially because of the perception that I had stepped down. I remember the difficult decision presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made to end her race to clear the way for then-candidate Barack Obama to become the Democratic Party nominee. Women all over the world cried because a piece of them was riding with her.

While you may have been disappointed by my actions, I am hopeful in knowing that you now have a clearer understanding of my position back then. Too often the voters are not aware of the political process, elections and how they work. As a result, there is confusion and misunderstanding. I’m taking full responsibility to do my part as a resident of this community, and I ask you to do yours.

IN ANY ELECTION, please vote for a candidate who represents your views and philosophies. If you have a concern or question about a candidate, do everything you can to contact him or her directly and get them addressed from the source. Let’s stand up against personal attacks, rumor-mongering and racial division.

As for me, you’ll know that I have remained very active in the community with a talk radio show; as a columnist for numerous publications, including The Augusta Chronicle; and as the author of Unlikely Allies: Eight Steps to Bridging Divides that Impact Leadership. I have held women’s leadership conferences, small-business conferences and started a successful youth leadership development program, the “Unlikely Allies Emerging Leaders Conference” series.

I am proud to be a new adjunct professor at Paine College, and very soon will launch a television show. My message and passion for unity, youth, leadership, economic development and community development hasn’t changed. In the coming months, we should seriously evaluate all possibilities of moving our community forward.

Thanks for your faithfulness, love and support.

(The writer is a radio talk-show host, published author, life coach and mental-health advocate.)

Comments (4) Add comment
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Conservative Man
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Conservative Man 08/19/12 - 10:11 am
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Hmm...

As always with Helen, the "I's" have it....32 in this one column to be exact...

Shellman
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Shellman 08/19/12 - 01:20 pm
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edit
Unpublished

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Shellman
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Shellman 08/19/12 - 01:22 pm
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delete
Unpublished

delete

Banana Brown
13
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Banana Brown 08/19/12 - 01:21 pm
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Self-serving

What a self-serving letter! I will say that I was one of the people who voted for Helen in 2006. I can now say that I grossly misjudged her. I'm beginning to think all of those rumors were correct.. that she was a decoy black candidate planted in the race to siphon votes away from Willie Mays. I would hate to believe that was true, but I'm beginning to think it may have been.

In any case I ended up voting for Copenhaver in the runoff , because at the time he seemed like he could bring a lot of new ideas to the city. But by 2010, I realized it was just the same ole-same ole- with Deke too. All he seemed interested in was a new ballpark downtown for his buddies. Even when the people said loud and clear that they were against it, Deke just ignored them. Deke is no change agent.. he looks after the interests of the political establishment and the crony capitalists who run Augusta.

That is why I supported Lori Davis in 2010..she truly was a change agent, and unlike Helen in 2006 she had real substantive issues I could identify with instead of bumper sticker slogans and buzz words. But who did Helen endorse in that race? Deke. I knew right then and there that Helen did not support change but very much lined up behind establishment politicians.

I find the timing of this letter very odd. Why is she just now explaining the mayoral race in 2006 and why she chose not to run again? The last mayoral race was two years ago and the next one is not until 2014. Again, I find this letter very self-serving from a wannabe player in Augusta politics.

Banana Brown
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Banana Brown 08/19/12 - 01:22 pm
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More plugs than the Hair Club for Men

I see she got to plug her new TV show and books..and got in more bumper sticker slogans like this one " In the coming months, we should seriously evaluate all possibilities of moving our community forward."... that says absolutely nothing. No specifics. Buzz words don't move the community forward.. taking action on specific issues does.

hba
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hba 08/19/12 - 02:44 pm
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Response to comments

Yes, you are right, there are quite a few I's. Will pay more attention to that next time. And self-serving is a bit severe since that isn't my style, however, this column was about me and 2005 Mayor's race. The specifics in this column was to address that only. The timing now is because of the current political climate and people are paying attention to local politics and the number of people over the past few months who have questioned and/or commented on the issues discussed in my column. Having a public forum like this paper gave me opportunity to reach the masses which I couldn't do via one-on-one conversations. And yes, I plugged things I'm doing in this community in case some people didn't know.

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