McLemore: Campaign marred by conspiracy

Published 9:32 am Friday, April 20, 2012

Click here to download the full audio interview from Wednesday’s edition.

FRANKLIN—Franklin’s elite have conspired to back the mayoral campaign of Councilwoman Raystine Johnson to split the black vote and get Mayor Jim Councill re-elected, according to the third mayoral candidate, Councilman Greg McLemore.

Both Johnson and Councill dismissed the claim.

McLemore told The Tidewater News that retired Franklin businessman Sol Rawls and others recruited Johnson to run purportedly because they were “sick of (Councill)” and would support her.

“Well, I would say I think that was fake, it was fictitious,” McLemore said. “If they wanted to get rid of Jim, all they had to do was stay out of the race. I had already announced in your paper that I was going to run, therefore I would have gotten 95 percent or more of the black vote along with the whites in Franklin who were ready for the change. If those were the only two choices, they would’ve gone with me giving me the opportunity to defeat Jim.”

McLemore, 53, conceded that the term “conspiracy” scared people, but added that a decision of two or more people to take an action could be considered a conspiracy.

McLemore also named Chuck Lilley, Westbrook Parker, Frank Rabil, Jim Rainey and Tidewater News Publisher Steve Stewart as co-conspirators.

He said when he confronted some of the alleged conspirators about reimbursing his campaign fees if he would drop out of the race and help ensure a Johnson victory, he was encouraged to stay in.

“They want a split,” McLemore said. “If the split is successful, then Jim gets back in.”

McLemore also accused Stewart of slanting his columns toward Johnson, but added the articles would slant toward Councill as the May 1 election nears.

Rabil said McLemore approached him about dropping out of the race if his campaign expenses were reimbursed.

“He made the comment that the rich were buying in with Raystine to split the vote,” Rabil said. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth.”

Rabil added that McLemore’s claim that a group of Johnson supporters have conspired to get Councill re-elected is “not the case at all.”

“We’re supporting Raystine for victory,” Rabil said.

“I wish it were true,” Councill told The Tidewater News. “I wish they were trying to reinforce my candidacy.”

The mayor said he’s had longtime supporters go in a different direction this election.

“Everyone wants to bring up the Navy, but that’s over and done with,” Councill said. “If that’s the only issue after all the good things I’ve done, I find that hard to believe.”

Johnson said she’s not a member of any conspiracy, but was approached by many people throughout the city who supported her for the job.

“Many people approached me and asked me to run,” Johnson said. “When you have a city position you’d expect to have support throughout the entire city.”