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.)