Campaign flyers being criticized as racist are hitting mailboxes in Northern Virginia.
The mailers created by the Republican Party of Virginia depict Black male candidates tied in ropes, evoking brutality against Black men, the candidates say.
Pastor and Del. Joshua Cole (D-Fredericksburg) said he heard about a mailer being used in places where Republicans were working to flip seats. Then it arrived at his house.
“I noticed the rope immediately and I was like, ‘I don’t really like this,’” he said Tuesday.
The mailers depict lawmakers as marionettes and call them “radical puppets.”
The Republican Party of Virginia responded with a statement saying in part that Askew’s and Cole’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.”
Cole said the meaning of the mailers really hit him once he heard from other Democratic delegates. He saw that the Black men, unlike the white men and all women, had ropes wrapped around their waists.
“It was really disheartening to see that we were suspended in the air hung by ropes, considering the history of Virginia,” Cole said.
He said he believes the mailers were meant to evoke more than just puppets.
“I’m not going to say my opponent is racist, but this mailer was sent out as a dog whistle to those who align that way. It’s basically saying, ‘Hey, it’s time to come out,’” Cole said.
Another mailer shows Black men’s faces in a fiery frame.
Virginia Beach Del. Alex Askew, who was also targeted, wrote in a post to Twitter that “depicting any black person as burning or hanging propagates some of the most dangerous, racist tropes in history.”
Both Askew and Cole called on their opponents to denounce the mailers.
News4 reached out to Cole’s opponent, Tara Durant, by phone and email but did not receive a reply.
The Republican Party of Virginia responded with a statement saying in part that Askew’s and Cole’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.” A GOP spokesman added that there is also rope around two of the female candidates’ waists.
Cole said that while the mailer was hurtful, it also motivated him.
“We’re calling it out and we’re letting them know we will not be intimidated. We’ll knock on doors, get our base to get out this year,” he said.