District 54, Again

Gaynell Hendricks is still considering whether or not to contest her loss to Patricia Todd.

Based on the news reports, I am very glad Hendricks lost, and I hope she will just go away.  

Sadly, it appears that Hedricks and her supporters can only think in racial terms. It is true, as I first opined here, that Whitey’s vote gave Patricia Todd the win over Gaynell Hendricks. But if those white voters were motivated by racial considerations, that is Hendrick’s fault. Her and her supporters invoked race. In so doing they demonstrated their political ignorance; their lack of concern for Birmingham; and their own prejudices.

Kyle Whitmire has the facts:

Two weeks ago, Joe Reed, the head of the Alabama legislative black caucus, sent a letter to community leaders in the district asking them to support Hendricks because she was black. It was the first of many racially divisive scare tactics used during the campaign.

“Moreover, if we start electing whites in majority black districts, the chances are great that these districts will be redrawn as majority white districts after the 2010 census, and will remain so thereafter,” Reed wrote.

By arguing that the majority black district should be represented by a black legislator, Hendricks all but told white voters to go to hell: You are good enough to vote for me, but you’re the wrong color to ever hold this office. It was the equivalent of telling a black person “You’re good enough to cook in my kitchen, but you can’t eat at my table.”

Whitmire goes on to state that Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid joined Reed in calling for a black candidate in District 54. And her team is still invoking racial quotas:

Among about 30 supporters at Thursday’s news conference was state Rep. George Perdue, who is retiring after holding the seat for 23 years. There is no Republican candidate. Barring a successful write-in candidate or election contest, Todd would take the seat.

Perdue said if there are any voting irregularities, they must be investigated. He said the seat is important for helping keep the Legislature racially proportionate with the state’s population. Perdue and Hendricks are black. Todd is white.

This approach by Hendricks and her supporters was not only wrong, it was politically stupid. Whitmire says it much better than I can:

Racial politics is nothing new to Birmingham. It was practically invented here. But throughout this race I was astounded at just how dumb a campaign Hendricks was running. She was apparently blind to something any good political strategist could have told her: Those white voters in Forest Park, Crestwood and Avondale could have been her voters. It’s not as though Hendricks is the first black candidate they have ever seen.

No one should know this better than Mayor Kincaid. After all, it was those voters who propelled him to office seven years ago.

Again, Mayor Kincaid should know, but apparently he doesn’t.

At the end of a press conference Tuesday, I asked the mayor his thoughts on the runoff elections that were underway. The mayor refused to answer questions about his previous comments on the radio, but he did say something that took me off guard: The mayor said he believes that white voters in Birmingham are conservative Republicans, particularly in Forest Park.

After the press conference, I asked Councilor Valerie Abbott, who represents those affluent Southside neighborhoods, which political party holds sway there. Without hesitating she said, “Democrats.” I told her that the mayor didn’t share her opinion.

“The mayor thinks that all white people are Republicans,” Abbott said. “What he doesn’t know is that all those people he’s thinking of moved to the suburbs about 20 years ago.”

Early in human history, mapmakers filled the gaps in their knowledge with erroneous warnings of sea beasts and supernatural savages: “Thar be Monsters here.” The mayor has a map of Birmingham’s political landscape in his head, but there is a blind spot in the predominantly white neighborhoods: Redmont, Highland Park, Forest Park and Crestwood. Past that line, Kincaid’s map reads: “Thar be Republicans here.” Hendricks navigated her campaign by the mayor’s atlas.

The mayor’s atlas is not only wrong, but anyone who accepts it cares not for Birmingham, and has plenty of their own prejudices.

First, that Kincaid and Hendricks could be so wrong about the make-up of the area means they have no interest at all in the area. That is a shame, because these are the wealthiest neighborhoods in B’ham. And that these well-to-do people choose to live in B’ham in spite of the high crime, bad schools, and inept leadership, means that they really love the city. Yet the mayor, and Hendricks ignore them. The resource is not just untapped, it is rejected. That is bad for B’ham.  

Second, what if the area was a bunch of Republicans? Why does that mean a black candidate ought to ignore the area? Is Republican a proxy for racist in Kincaid’s mind? The saying used to be that while not all Republicans are racists, all racists are Republicans. Post-Larry Darby, I don’t think even that is true any more. And even if it was, nothing is ever going to change for the better so long as we operate on stereotypes.

The white folks did not reject Gaynell Hendricks. She rejected them. Hopefully, from now on, she and her supporters will rely on merit and not race.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Alabama Legislature, Birmingham, Corrupt Politicians

6 Comments on “District 54, Again”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Geez, how ignorant can the mayor be? If all the white people in those areas were conservative Republicans, why on earth would they re-elect Valerie Abbott to the City Council. She is openly gay-friendly, having attended a number of Equality Alabama events (where I saw her with my very own eyes) and received an award from the organization.

    The white people in Crestwood and elsewhere didn’t vote for Patricia because she’s white; they voted for her because many of them already knew her personally and because she and her campaign folks worked like crazy. I’ll readily speculate that some people voted for her because she is gay, but if she’d been a crummy candidate (which she was not) in other respects, she would not have won.


  2. […] Wheeler at Alablawg has some good commentary on the racial dynamics at work in the race. He includes a link to Kyle Whitmire’s column in the Birmingham Weekly about the race. Here’s a snippet that blew both of us away: At the end of a press conference Tuesday, I asked the mayor [Birmingham mayor Bernard Kincaid] his thoughts on the runoff elections that were underway. The mayor refused to answer questions about his previous comments on the radio, but he did say something that took me off guard: The mayor said he believes that white voters in Birmingham are conservative Republicans, particularly in Forest Park. […]

  3. Dan Says:

    This is a great post, Wheeler. Nothing to add, really, just wanted to say it was a great read.


  4. […] I’ve already explained my disgust with Joe Reed’s racial tactics, and why I think the challenge is meritless. But what really chaps my hide about this story is that, if these facts are true, Joe Reed is opposed to a fair hearing. He is not just alleging that Patricia Todd acted improperly, he is trying to ensure that a biased decision maker will make the ultimate determination. What a crock. […]


  5. […] 7-17: Kathy endorses Todd 7-18: Wheeler says he’ll vote for Todd 7-19: Wheeler first talks about how race entered into the election 7-25: Patricia Todd is officially the winner of the race for House district 54 7-28: Wheeler says Hendricks is considering a challenge to the election results 7-28: Hendricks’ mother-in-law challenges results 8-9: Wheeler goes over what happened during the election 8-15: Kathy says she’ll be going to the challenge hearing in Montgomery 8-15: The hearing is mysteriously cancelled 8-16: Kathy announces Todd is “taking off the gloves” 8-16: Joe Reed apparently had a dirty hand in the cancellation […]


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