Black Democrats in Virginia are calling out the state Republican Party after a series of eight flyers from their opponents were mailed out showing Black legislators strung up like puppets.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the flyers showed up in mailboxes in several districts over the weekend. The flyers depict two Black Democrat delegates, Josh Cole of Fredericksburg and Alex Askew of Virginia Beach, tightly bound with ropes at their waist, wrists and ankles. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are also in the flyer as their puppet masters.
“I’m not saying that my opponent is racist, but Republicans are using racist tropes to get their voters to come out,” Cole said. He is defending his seat against Republican challenger Tara Durant, according to the Times-Dispatch. Cole said the flyer was a racist dog whistle that draws up memories of Black people being lynched.
Here’s how the Republican Party responded, from Times-Dispatch:
In its statement, the Republican Party of Virginia said that “Askew, Cole, and Tyler’s extreme liberal records have been such a failure that they know the only path to victory is trying to trick Virginians into thinking it’s racist for anyone to hold any candidate accountable for raising the cost of living, working to defund the police, and telling parents they don’t matter.”
Rich Anderson, the state GOP chairman, noted that the ads explicitly say they were not authorized by the Republican candidates whom they support.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Christina Polizzi, said that a thwarted plot by two neo-Nazis to attack House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, “shows that these kinds of mailers, whether racist or antisemitic, can incite violence.”
The Republican Party of Virginia said different versions of the mailers were sent around showing eight candidates with various backgrounds and denied racist intent. Five of the candidates are white and three are Black. According to the Associated Press, another Black candidate, Del. Roslyn Tyler of Sussex County, doesn’t appear suspended by rope any flyers.
Democrats are defending the seats they flipped in the state’s house of delegates in about a dozen districts.
This isn’t the first time that flyers from Virginian Republicans have been called discriminatory. AP reports that Democrat Del. Dan Helmer of Fairfax, who is Jewish, called a flyer anti-Semitic for depicting a shadowy picture of him staring at piles of gold coins.
His Republican opponent, Harold Pyon, an immigrant from Korea, said he’s experienced discrimination and would never endorse it. AP notes that Mike Ginsberg, another Jewish Republican in the state’s central committee, said the flyer that went around last week wasn’t anti-Semitic, but a “traditional hard-hitting political piece that raises real issues about the rising cost of living in Northern Virginia.”
Last month, Askew was also the subject of another flyer with his photo on a box of matches that was lit on fire. “I’m a Black man. Depicting any Black person as burning or hanging propagates some of the most dangerous, racist tropes in history. This dog whistle attack has no place in our politics,” he said in a tweet then.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee called on the Republican Party and the candidates to apologize and disavow the mailers, according to the Times-Dispatch.
Republican Karen Greenhalgh, who is Askew’s opponent, is the only candidate to issue a statement about this recent set of flyers. “Many in the 85th district received an offensive mailer today. Neither myself nor anyone on my campaign staff approved this mailer. I do not condone its imagery,” she said on Twitter. “My campaign is about job creation, lower taxes, and safer neighborhoods. It’s not about offensive mail pieces.”