Making history the right way

Published 10:05 am Friday, May 4, 2012

After much campaign hullabaloo about coalitions and alliances, only one coalition mattered in Tuesday’s Franklin mayoral election.

White and black citizens of Franklin came together in unprecedented numbers, bridged the historical racial divide in city politics, and, coincidentally rather than intentionally, made history: Raystine Johnson will take office July 1 as the city’s first elected black mayor and first female mayor.

The significance of that milestone is less the accomplishment than how it occurred.

It was inevitable that Franklin, a biracial town where black people constitute a slight majority, would one day elect an African-American mayor. In the mentality of yesteryear, it would have been a simple mathematical equation: More blacks than whites go to the polls, everybody votes for the candidate of their own skin color, and the black candidate wins.

Impressively, that’s not the way it happened Tuesday.

Johnson won despite woefully low black voter turnout and the presence on the ballot of a second black candidate who siphoned off a third or better of the African-American vote. Johnson won in large part because of support from hundreds of white voters who chose her over a likable white incumbent who had served the city honorably and faithfully for 16 years.

So much for rabblerousing Councilman Greg McLemore’s assertion that Johnson’s candidacy was a “trick of the rich” to keep Jim Councill in power.

That mindset is long gone in Franklin, officially ushered out Tuesday by a colorblind electorate.