THEY SAY… An old political strategy has been resurrected in Escambia County. It pits people against each other without ever the instigator personally getting in the line of fire. All one has to do is say, “Well, they say you…”
If that fails to work, the person can raise the pressure by saying, “I heard he/she said (fill in the blank) about you.”
Yes, it’s high school gossip politics, but it works in Pensacola. Maybe it’s because the old power structures have been challenged by the election of Sheriff David Morgan and Mayor Ashton Hayward, the dogged perseverance of Quint Studer and the candidacy of Lumon May.
The “controversy” over the Studers’ commitment to the Maritime Park was just such an incident. Few associated with the park ever thought the couple had pledged $4 million to the project, but the park’s executive director and attorney insisted, only to see their board side with the Studers.
Behind the scenes, people tried to pit Hayward and his chief of staff, the Studers and the Community Maritime Park Associates chairman Collier Merrill against each other. Rumors flew all over the place.
Fortunately the players kept direct lines of communication open between each other. Every “they said” or “he said” was countered with a phone call, thus avoiding confrontations and litigation.
I’ve seen the same thing since Lumon May pre-filed to run for Escambia County Commission, District 3. In a bizarre twist, May is being attacked by the “we-theys” for taking contributions from whites and also being hit, by his opponent Hugh King, by those same white leaders as being to radical because his brother invited Rev. Jeremiah Wright to speak at his church.
It’s the best of all worlds for the “we-they” game players, trying to take away May’s black and white support with one blow. What King and his handlers don’t realize is Lumon May has spent over 20 years helping people inside District 3 and coaching inner-city youth. The District knows him and his family. That personal knowledge trumps “we-they.”
The older leadership in District 3 is frightened of May. He and his friends exposed their lack of power and influence when they got Hayward elected mayor over their candidate, Mike Wiggins.
If May is elected commissioner, their house of cards will tumble. They must figure out how to paint him as “too white,” “too Republican,” and somehow also “a radical African-American.”
“We-they” will be their tool. Let’s hope it doesn’t work.