A municipal race in the South Carolina Upstate took an unexpected turn this week when a group of black pastors endorsed a white Republican challenger, Randall Fowler, over incumbent Democratic city councilwoman Dorothy Dowe – and subsequently challenged their community to assert its “spirt and independence.”
Astoundingly, not a single media outlet in the Upstate covered the event …
That’s right … not one.
Greenville is one of the few municipalities in the Palmetto State which features partisan elections for mayor and city council positions. Fowler and Dowe are both running for an at-large council seat in this city of nearly 75,000. The incumbent mayor, Knox White, is also on the ballot.
“We wanted to share with you a decision, made after thoughtful deliberation and careful consideration, to endorse and encourage you to vote for Randall Fowler,” a letter from six prominent black Greenville pastors noted. “In making this endorsement we have evaluated the long history of patronizing promises made and broken, of empty gestures made without substance, of spoken good intentions that ultimately rang hollow, and concluded that the change we need will not come by supporting the status quo.”
The pastors made it clear they were not rebuking their party – but were declaring the electoral independence of their communities.
“This is not a repudiation of all Democratic candidates and elected officials but with this endorsement we are putting both parties on notice that the support of our community will not be taken for granted or dutifully given,” they wrote in the letter (.pdf). “It will only be awarded to those who have earned it and work to keep it through meaningful dialogue and achieving tangible results.”
“Our community gains nothing from being a reliable tool of one political party,” they added. “Instead political parties should be an instrument we use for the benefit of our community’s well-being and prosperity.”
Reverend Curtis Johnson, reverend Stacey Mills, reverend James Nesbitt, reverend B.L. Battle, reverend Vinson Royal and reverend Philip Baldwin signed the letter. All six pastors joined Fowler at a press conference in Greenville on Thursday afternoon to announce their support of his candidacy.
Big news, right? In this race, absolutely.
Oddly enough, the pastoral endorsements of Fowler were greeted by a media blackout in the Greenville-Spartanburg designated market area (DMA). Only one local television station – Fox Carolina – attended the Thursday press conference, which was held outside of OJ’s Diner in Greenville’s West End. The station declined to cover the event, however. No other coverage was provided.
In their letter, the pastors specifically noted how their communities have been left behind amid Greenville’s stratospheric growth – and urged citizens to “take action” in response.
“The City of Greenville is in the midst of unprecedented growth and seemingly unlimited prosperity,” they wrote. “For some in our community this has made life better, for many more it has made things worse, and for far too many it has made no tangible difference at all. The irony is that it is our communities and neighborhoods that have always borne the burden and suffered the negative impact of development while at the same time benefiting the least from it and, often, being hurt by it. We are used to this, of course, but we should not be made complacent by it. We and many of our fellow pastors know that we must take action now, before it is too late, and we are calling on you to join us.”
(Click to view)
Again … how on earth did local media not deem this letter newsworthy? I don’t even cover municipal issues in Greenville and I can see its intrinsic news value.
Fowler is a first-time candidate for office who was inspired to run after he witnessed a city zoning board vote against the will of his community regarding the location of a controversial storage facility.
“The proposed development was in direct conflict with city plans, and despite the city staff’s recommendation to reject it, the facility was approved and the neighborhood lost,” Fowler recalled. “Furthermore, the developer for the proposed facility sat on the board of the committee approving the plan, and would be personally profiting from the development.”
If elected, Fowler has vowed to “fight corruption on our local boards and committees, help grow Greenville responsibly, and ensure neighborhood and school safety across the city.”
Fowler said he was honored to receive the endorsement of the pastors.
“It is a true honor to receive the endorsement of these pastors who stand strong as pillars of our community,” Fowler said. “From day one of my campaign, I have stressed the need to work with people of all different backgrounds and ideologies in order to further improve the city we all love.”
The problem? For voters of “all different backgrounds and ideologies” to know about Fowler and this late breaking support for his campaign, the media needs to cover the story. The fact they are refusing to do so strikes me as incredibly odd – and incredibly disappointing.
Fowler agreed, calling the media blackout “wholly unacceptable” and arguing voters “deserve to know when a candidate is endorsed by prominent members of the community – regardless of who that candidate is or what party they represent.”
UPDATE | Shortly after our story was published, Fox Carolina reversed course and decided to air the story after all.
THE RELEASE …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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