Sheriff candidate fires back at newspaper publisher
May 14, 2008
Albany -- A Dougherty County Sheriff's candidate is outraged by accusations that she is only running for the office to divide the black vote. A newspaper editor criticized Benita Childs in a commentary in his paper. But he also blasted a local civil rights legend, accusing Charles Sherrod of helping to keep the black community divided. Childs says she won't stand for that.
"Everyone in America has a right to be a part of your democratic process." This is the message Dougherty County Sheriff Candidate Benita Childs has in response to a column written by the publisher of the Southwest Georgian newspaper.
In last week's edition, Art Searles said that Child's running against James Williams will split the black vote and prevent a black person from being Dougherty's Sheriff.
"There are 8,376 more registered black voters than white in Dougherty County. Being black you don't have any white votes to win the election. So the best thing to do is split the vote and dilute it and continue to stay in charge," Art Searles said.
Searles implied that Benita Childs was only running to keep James Williams from being elected and claimed a vote for her was really a vote for white candidate Kevin Sproul.
"No one paid me or convinced me to run. I saw a need. A need for true change. I had a passion to be a part of that change," Childs said.
"I don't believe that. But if that's what she said that's fine, but I don't believe it," said Searles.
Childs said that these comments are not only divisive, but racist. "I don't agree with that because we are assuming that blacks only vote one way. We assume that all black people only vote one way and that's preposterous. When you go in that booth you can vote for whomever you want."
"I am saying that white people vote for white people. We vote for everybody and that is part of the problem. Our community is not unified. To point that out, does that make me a racist? It is what it is," countered Searles
Childs said she is most upset by Searles criticism of her uncle, civil rights pioneer Charles Sherrod. Searles claims Sherrod is being divisive for supporting Childs.
"I am not going to let Art Searles diminish a great man like Reverend Charles Sherrod. He ought to be ashamed. Has he done as much for the community? I think not."
"I am just as upset as she is. I am so upset I don't know what to do. He is supposed to be politically savvy, and here he is playing a part in this. I said it in my column. He is an accomplice to dividing this community," said Searles.
Searles claims Childs can't win the race and says all black voters should support Williams. But Childs says she's a legitimate candidate committed to winning and serving the people well as sheriff.
Art Searles is the owner, publisher, and editor-in-chief of the Albany Southwest Georgian, and a Dougherty County commissioner.