Recently, Montgomery mayoral candidate Barrett Gilbreath reacted to incumbent Mayor Steven Reed's chief of staff's attempts to inject race into the upcoming mayoral race.
Chip Hill, Reed's chief of staff, has been on a Twitter tear recently, claiming certain candidates in the mayoral race are running to put "Montgomery through another race fight" and are "squandering opportunities by trying to find ANY white person to run against." He also claimed that a white mayor would receive mass adulation for the economic successes of the city.
This headline with a white mayor in @CityofMGM and they would be talking about building him a statue - instead of squandering opportunities by trying to find ANY white person to run against @MayorofMgm. It's just heartbreadking and sad. But, we will be alright on the other… https://t.co/YODXCJV9Aa— Chip Hill (@Chip_Hill) August 2, 2023
And before the finger is pointed at @MayorofMgm for ANY reason, know that a number of us, after poll after poll showed the people want Steven Reed as Mayor, we spent MONTHS begging people of influence in this city not to put Montgomery through another race fight. Our pleas fell… pic.twitter.com/BauOQbhWgW— Chip Hill (@Chip_Hill) August 2, 2023
In an appearance on 93.1 News & Views with Joey Clark, Gilbreath was asked about Hill and others making the election about race.
"I hate it," Gilbreath said. "I mean, I've said this before, when I played football at [Jefferson Davis High School], my skin color never mattered in that locker room. It didn't. Nobody cared. It was about wins and losses. It was about practicing hard, and it was about giving your best for your teammates. And so, to see this become the angle of the [mayoral] race, like you said, it's disappointing."
Gilbreath continued by saying that he was happy about the economic opportunities that have been committed to the city, specifically in transporting goods. However, he said his priorities lie elsewhere.
"The problem is when we talk to people — We're at a great intersection of two interstates, railroads, rivers, those are logistical opportunities that came here because of the ease of moving product. What's not coming here are the high-paying career opportunities that entice people to move here. See, trucks that go in and out of an intermodal facility don't spend money in hotels, and don't have kids in schools, and don t spend money in restaurants, nor does ships that offload container. I think the economic development, the economic impact of those things are positive, and I think the county and the chamber of commerce, as a group, that was a win… but it doesn't bring the high-paying career opportunities here."
Gilbreath, like the other two candidates in the race, has made rising crime and a lack of police staffing a central point of his campaign.
Clark suggested to Gilbreath that Hill and others have accused Gilbreath's focus on crime as being nothing more than a "racist dog whistle," a claim Gilbreath staunchly denied, pointing to the statistics on crime as a mathematical fact.
"That's sort of tough for me when we're on pace for 85 murders in this city," Gilbreath said. "When last year it was 65, I think, which is down from the year before, which was in the 70s."… That's not a dog whistle. Those are real people and real families that have been impacted. Again, that's not race for me, that's not political party for me. Those are real numbers and real families in this city who are affected."
Montgomery's municipal election will be held on August 22.
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