PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 1, 2014

PACC candidates condemn negative politics

Slave posting goes too far, embarrassing, PACC candidates say

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — “Tasteless, embarrassing, disgraceful, abusive, and painful.”

Those words, used to describe a negative political campaign that goes beyond the usual mud slinging, underscored the feelings of Port Arthur City Council candidates who denounced the tactics publicly Thursday.  

At City Hall, four candidates running for City Council seats, Kerry Thomas, Tiffany Lynn Hamilton, Laura Miguez and Mike Mason, joined together to condemn negative political attacks — some with racial overtones that hearken back to the days of slavery.

“We feel that none of the candidates are participating in this. We all met here in a collaborative effort to ask it to stop. It is an embarrassment to the city of Port Arthur and to the citizens of Port Arthur,” Kerry “Twin” Thomas, Position 8 City Councilman, said.

Thomas, who is seeking re-election, has been a target of a recent social media posting depicting himself, along with candidates Mike Mason, Tiffany Lynn Hamilton and Derrick Freeman, as slaves.

The four City Council candidate’s heads are superimposed on a group of slaves with the caption “Thirty Years a Slave,” written underneath.

All of the candidates are black, and the group responsible for the negative publicity is believed to be black also, Thomas said.

The slave photo is among several negative postings appearing on the Facebook by-invitation-only group page, “PA Politics.”

The photo is posted by David Jones, a regular at City Council meetings, and a black man.

“It is tasteless to say the least,” Thomas said. “And, it is painful for black citizens. It is definitely embarrassing.”

The depiction also has the caption, “Bought and Paid for by United Port Arthur,” a political action group supporting many of the candidates represented in the negative campaign.

Thomas said he believes the posting infers that United Port Arthur members  Ike Akbari, a Port Arthur developer, and former State Senator Carl Parker, are slavemasters, who run City Council.

Akbari said he was shocked that anyone would think he is a slavemaster.

“These people are a bunch of nuts, or the people listening to them are a bunch of nuts. We all know there is no personal agendas here for United Port Arthur, it is not called Divide Port Arthur,” Akbari said.

The slave posting is not the only negative depiction published by the group of anonymous people. Nearly as soon as Mason announced his intention to run for the District 1 City Council seat, a flyer began to circulate around Port Arthur portraying Mason as a house slave. His photo is juxtaposed against Samuel Jackson’s house slave character Stephen, from the movie “Django Unchained.”

“This is just so unprofessional, just unreal, just horrible,” Mason said, adding that he was having a difficult time grasping the intent of the campaign.

“I thought we had moved beyond that at this particular time, 2014,” Mason said.

Though not racially-motivated, another flyer circulating around town shows incumbent Position 7 Candidate Derrick Freeman as a Pinocchio figure. His image is superimposed with a long nose, and the caption calling him a liar.

Another depicts candidates endorsed by Unite Port Arthur as puppets, with Akbari and Parker represented as puppeteers pulling the candidate’s strings.

Hamilton, who is running for the District 2 City Council seat, and is portrayed as a slave on the PA Politics site, said those involved in the publication are “limited thinkers.”

“My face is one of the slaves. I did not expect to see it, but am not surprised,” she said.

The message goes beyond slavery, she said.

“The real issues is a matter of being uneducated, bullying and selfish,” Hamilton said.

Negative campaigns like this, she said, can damage a city’s reputation and send the wrong message to children.

“When our children see this they are led to believe if there is something you don’t agree with, it’s OK  to be rude, ugly and disrespectful,” Hamilton said. “I am concerned that the light shined from this type of foolishness will gain more attention than all the wonderful things going in our city.”

Thomas implored the group behind the negative campaign to stop and restore integrity to the city’s political process.

“What the voters want to hear is what we have to offer to the city,” Thomas said. “I feel we should be campaigning on the issues of the city.”

Miguez, though not represented in any of the negative ads or postings, said she stood with those who were in solidarity.

“This is very disappointing. It is showing a poor representation of the citizens of Port Arthur,” Miguez said. “I believe this will backfire, and soon too. There is a blessing in everything.”

E-mail: skoonce@panews.c

Twitter: skooncePANews