Talk is hot and heavy these days that Augusta Commissioner Joe Jackson is not just joshing when he says he is considering a run to succeed Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver. Well-known (and generally beloved) businessman Brad Usry is asked almost every day if he is still considering a run at the same office.
If my hypothesis is correct, both men would be better off not wasting their time. Under normal circumstances, I do not believe there is any way a white candidate can win against a black candidate for mayor of Augusta.
The more I consider the announced field, which includes Commissioner Alvin Mason, community activist Helen Blocker-Adams and State Senator Hardie Davis, the more I am convinced that there is no way either Jackson or Usry prevails to win under any but the most extraordinary and bizarre conditions.
Some will call this opinion racist, and that would be a silly mistake. Given the very clear message delivered by Augusta voting patterns in the 2012 general election, the results show us good white folks like Usry and Jackson have very little chance of prevailing against good black folks like the aforementioned Mason, Blocker-Adams and Davis.
I documented all this over a year ago, and the phenomenon which I now dub “The Paschall Priniciple” should be considered as a local election standard until proved otherwise by verified poll results.
Here is my theory: In Richmond County, when given the option to choose between a white candidate and a black candidate, you had a far better chance of seeing a white voter choose black than a black voter choose white. That would be in a straight-up, non-partisan contest. Throw in historical partisan labels (black equals Democrat, white equals Republican), or even partisan reputations, and the trend will show up stronger.
Results show President Obama collected 66 percent of the total vote, which most rational people, based on voter trends that showed him carrying 90 percent plus margins of victory in densely black precincts, would declare as close to a “baseline” for voting Democrats in the county as there can be. In the county-wide elections, there were no white Democrats running and no black Republicans. It has been reported in the past that 80 percent of the city’s Democrats are black.
The one Republican who fared the best in the county was incumbent District Attorney Ashley Wright, who lost to an impossibly underfunded, underqualified and underwhelming opponent in Democrat Evita Paschall by a 60-40 percent landslide. If there was a single example of black voters choosing race over qualifications, with absolutely no qualms about casting a vote for a clearly inferior candidate, this would be the one case to make.
Wright outraised and outspent Paschall more than 8 to 1. Wright is an award-winning prosecutor widely considered one of the best in the state, and she is universally admired and respected by every judge and almost every attorney within 100 miles of the courthouse. When she became district attorney as Danny Craig ascended into his Superior Court judgeship, Wright became on day one the most experienced prosecuting DA to ever take over the local office.
There was not a hint, not a whisper, not a word of serious controversy or complaint about her service from anyone who matters. Not one damn peep. This race should not have been close; actually, in the grand scheme of things, it never should have been considered.
Yet Paschall nailed her in Richmond County by 15,741 votes.
Thank goodness for Wright, and for the sanity of the Augusta Judicial Circuit, she would ultimately win the three-county district on the strength of a 75-percent strong margin of victory in Columbia County. In Burke County it was practically a 50-50 split. Wright took the circuit wide race by about 15,000 total votes.
There were other black-white races in Augusta’s 2012 elections that finished in similar lopsided totals, with blacks coming out on top: Harry James beating Carlton Vaughn for probate judge, Kelli McIntyre defeating Chuck Evans for solicitor and, of course, Richard Roundtree beating Freddie Sanders for sheriff. In each of those races, an argument could be made that the black candidate was unquestionably qualified and “better known” if not more popular than the white counterpart. But that statement cannot be made in the case of Paschall vs. Wright. Not even close. Thus we have the heart of “The Paschall Principle.” There appears to be a baseline of voters in Augusta elections who apparently will not cross the race barrier (black to white), even if a clearly inferior black candidate stands against an exemplary white candidate.
So what does it mean? It means that black folks are closer than they have ever been to controlling 100 percent of the important, city-wide elected offices in Augusta. The coroner and marshal (both white males) are likely to be the next to go, and while Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson benefited from an incredibly poor and unqualified primary opponent this time around, you can bet she will be targeted soon again.
Unlike we saw in the 2012 district attorney contest, the current announced black candidates for mayor are proven public servants who are well known and quite personally popular among a broad base of supporters. The possible white candidates, Joe Jackson and Brad Usry, are also popular and well liked, but they appear to simply be the wrong color.
Some would say that President Obama’s presence in the election ginned up the local minority vote, and that excitement translated well across the board for black candidates. Maybe so, but given the huge margin of victory Paschall took over Wright, there is enough cushion there to allow for a serious reduction in total votes and still see a convincing win for a minority candidate.
Clip this article, and we can compare notes the day after the election.