Michael Meunier, Republican candidate for the 39th District Seat in the House of Delegates, accused one of his opponents in the race, incumbent Vivian Watts (D), of racism.
In a press release that Meunier's campaign issued on Tuesday, Sept. 27, the candidate characterized a campaign flyer released by Watts which showed her in photos besides Caucasians with the message "One of our Own," as racist. In his press release, Meunier demanded an apology.
"I moved to the United States in 1990 and have lived in this district for 10 years," said Meunier, on Wednesday morning, almost two days after Watts' flyer was sent to homes in the Springfield area. "I'm just as much a member of this community as she is. I think anyone with an eye to see can look at that statement and see that she's saying this brown-skinned guy isn't one of us."
Meunier said Watts may be trying to portray herself as "an all-American girl" in comparison to himself, an Egyptian immigrant. "If she had been a firefighter and sent a mailer calling herself one of their own to firemen, that would be acceptable," he said. "There is nothing acceptable about this at all."
An "outraged voter" first notified Meunier of the mailing by sending a scanned copy of it via e-mail to his office Tuesday, he said. "I haven't been following what messages she's been sending out because I've been so busy in my own office," Meunier said. "I'm not the guy who would use racist things to get an advantage."
Watts said she was "dumbfounded" by the accusation.
"I'm sad he'd put out something like that," she said of Meunier's statement.
Watts said that the phrase "One of Our Own" refers to her roots in the community.
"My last campaign brochure had the phrase 'Deep Roots in Our Community' on it," Watts said. "It has nothing to do with race."
The claim that she's using racial slurs in her material is "totally unfounded," she said. "I've been a part of this community for years. People know me, they know what I'm about."
Meunier said he was "greatly disappointed" that Watts would send out such a mailer. "I had held her in high regard before, but now she's proved she's just another politician who is desperate and willing to go to any length to stay in office," he said.
Richard Herron, an Independent Green candidate, is also seeking Watts' seat in the General Assembly.