Williams: A positive among the attack ads in the Gecker-Sturtevant race

Williams: A positive among the attack ads in the Gecker-Sturtevant race

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Richmond, Virginia

Michael Paul Williams, Columnist

During the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina, John McCain was the target of a whisper campaign that he’d fathered a black child out of wedlock. McCain, who in reality had an adopted Bangladeshi daughter, suffered a pivotal loss to eventual nominee George W. Bush.

Fifteen years later, with control of the Virginia State Senate in the balance, the Republican and Democratic candidates — both white — are showcasing their black children in televised campaign ads…

…No politician places his children before the camera with the idea that it will cost him votes. But we must never become so cynical, so suspicious of motivation, that we lose the capacity to acknowledge positive change when we see it.

“It’s hard to call this anything but good news,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “I remember the 1950s and 1960s, when Virginians would openly decry racially mixed marriage or the adoption of children of another race. And the Senate race is in the Richmond area, once one of the most resistant to change.

“Today,” Sabato said, “a mixed-race family is a political plus. Without saying a word, you project an image of progress and modernity.”

Of course, it’s hard to imagine a mixed-race family as part of a political master plan, given the love, commitment, energy and money required to raise a child. And what happens if you lose the election?

But evidence abounds that Sabato is on to something.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his African-American wife, Chirlane McCray, are the parents of college-age daughter Chiara and son Dante, who wears a prodigious Afro hairstyle. And south of the Mason-Dixon Line in Kentucky, Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin and his wife have run ads including their four adopted Ethiopian children…

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