In what she called "The Queen Esther Decision," Helen Blocker-Adams endorsed Deke Copenhaver in the Augusta mayoral race Tuesday.
Ms. Blocker-Adams said the past 15 days have been the most grueling and stressful of her life because both interim Augusta Mayor Willie Mays and Mr. Copenhaver have been campaigning for her endorsement.
"They don't even compare to the six months I was campaigning for the office of mayor," she said.
She placed third in the Nov. 8 mayoral election; Mr. Mays and Mr. Copenhaver will be in the Dec. 6 runoff to fill the remainder of former Mayor Bob Young's term, which expires at the end of next year.
"Over the past 15 days, over 100 people have offered solicited and unsolicited advice on what Helen should do about endorsing a mayoral candidate," she said.
The decision was particularly difficult because of the potential for backlash from people who might not like it, she said.
"And then I started to think that if I did not take a stand for a candidate, it would be like a county commissioner 'abstaining' from an important vote," she said.
In the Old Testament, she said, Queen Esther, who intervened with a Persian king to prevent a pogrom against her Jewish people, found herself having to make a bold decision that would affect thousands.
"Her response regarding having to make that decision to help save her people was, 'If I perish, then I perish.' Today I am making a Queen Esther decision."
Noting that 48 percent of the people who voted in the Nov. 8 election voted for change, she said she was endorsing Mr. Copenhaver because she believes he is the city's next best hope.
In his remarks, Mr. Copenhaver said if Ms. Blocker-Adams had come in second and he third, Tuesday's news conference would still be happening.
"The speakers would be different," he said, "but the message would be the same. And what is that message? That change is on the way. On Nov. 8, we started to make it happen. On Dec. 6, we have a historic opportunity to unite and finish the job."
When asked what he thought about the endorsement Tuesday, Mr. Mays said he thought the same thing he thought about mayoral candidate Tommy Boyles' endorsement of Mr. Copenhaver.
"Everybody's got that right," he said. "We'll just keep running our campaign."
Ms. Blocker-Adams decided to endorse Mr. Copenhaver after interviewing him and Mr. Mays twice each.
"Interim Mayor Willie Mays was the first to call me, and Deke was the second," she said. "I had similar conversations with both of them. We discussed the pledge we made at the candidates' forum held at Paine College to work and reach out to the candidates who did not get the city's top job. We all agreed and felt that Augusta is at a turning point for exponential growth. To not utilize the experience and skill sets of each of the candidates would be a travesty."
She said she decided to endorse a candidate from an analytical and professional standpoint, asking them each four questions.
"I told them that I would make a decision based on the responses and how they and their platform mirrored mine," she said.
"I told them that I would document the comments and they would be made public. I also told them that whoever wins I would be keeping an eye on them over the next 12 months. They would be held accountable for the things they said they were going to do," she said.
When asked how her endorsement might affect her political future, such as running for mayor again next year, Ms. Blocker-Adams said she might or might not run.
In response to a question about whether a black woman should have endorsed the black mayoral candidate, Mr. Mays, she said she did not make her decision on the basis of color but from the perspective of which candidate's political views were most closely aligned with hers.
Augusta State University professor emeritus Ralph Walker said endorsements don't mean "a whole heck of a lot" but that a candidate would rather have them than not. He also said her endorsement could come back to hurt her politically.
"Anytime you endorse somebody, you're bound to step on a few toes," Dr. Walker said. "I just didn't think it was necessary for her to endorse anybody, to be honest with you. She was sort of a breath of fresh air, an independent person who didn't seem to have any particular ties to any political faction. But now she is, and has. I don't see what she has to gain by it."
He said he wasn't surprised that if she endorsed anyone it would be Mr. Copenhaver.
"She ran a campaign basically on that we need change," he said. "And it would be rather hypocritical of her to say, 'I'm voting for an incumbent after I said what we really need is change.' So, she and Deke are both on the same page as far as declaring Augusta needs change."
Staff writer Mike Wynn contributed to this article.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Augusta's runoff will be held Dec. 6, with early voting from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Dec. 2. Early voting will be at the Board of Elections Office, 530 Greene St., Room 104; Henry Brigham Recreation Center, 2463 Golden Camp Road; and Warren Road Recreation Center, 300 Warren Road. Races include the mayor, commission districts 7 and 9 and Board of Education District 9.
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