Commissioner Sutton accuses opponent of trying to ‘hide’ his white wifeFormer DeKalb County commissioner Sharon Barnes-Sutton File photo by: Dyana Bagby.
DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton has given her first public comment on a racially-charged mailer she sent before the May 24 primary.
Sutton lost to Steve Bradshaw, but he did not earn enough votes to win the seat outright. They will meet in a runoff on July 26.
The mailer includes a picture of Bradshaw, who is black, with his wife, who is white. The mailer also claims that Bradshaw is “endorsed by hate groups” and does not support the NAACP. Bradshaw said the mailer was “clearly” intended to highlight the race of his wife.
Sutton, who has shied away from public forums and returning phone calls from reporters including a call from Decaturish, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Bill Torpy that Bradshaw did not want voters to know his wife is white.
Sutton asked Torpy, “Why’d he want to hide her?” The commissioner added that she doesn’t understand why Bradshaw would be upset unless he was trying to conceal that he was in a biracial marriage. To read the full story, click here.
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Sutton is clearly facing an angrier electorate than she has in previous election years. She’s been a magnet for controversy.
Even before her 2012 reelection bid, questions were raised regarding her campaign spending. Jim Walls, who runs the Atlanta Unfiltered website, wrote that despite being saddled with debt, Sutton was still able to personally spend $69,000 to win the DeKalb County Commission seat in 2008.
She has a penchant for alienating some of the politicians in her district. Former Clarkston mayor Emanuel Ransom, who was defeated in the 2013 elections, told Decaturish in 2014, “She’s one of the worst commissioners we’ve ever had in the fourth district.” She was accused of personally holding up a contract to reconstruct the fire station in Avondale Estates. Sutton said at the time she delayed awarding the contract because she wanted to explore the possibility of entering into an intergovernmental agreement with Avondale Estates that would ensure the city would pay a “fair market rate” for the station if the city ever wants to buy it.
The fire station reopened last year.
Sutton is facing more questions concerning her use of her county-issued purchasing card. She sued the county’s ethics board, claiming it is unconstitutional. That effectively put the complaints against Sutton on hold while the lawsuit is pending. That has spared her from headlines regarding the rulings of the county’s Ethics Board. Her former assistant was recently found to have used her county issued card to make personal purchases and was fined $1,000, according to the AJC.
There are questions surrounding her free memberships to the YMCA. Sutton voted in favor of a partnership between the county and YMCA, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. The memberships were suspended after media inquiries.
Sutton was criticized for her handling of the issues surrounding the Brannon Hill Condominium Complex in her district. Brannon Hill has made national news after being featured in a Vice.com article. Brannon Hill Condominium Complex residents in DeKalb County are desperate for help in cleaning up their Clarkston neighborhood where burned out buildings, piles of trash and debris, open drug deals and violence have been the norm for many years.
She also recently came under fire for holding a festival in her district. She said the festival wasn’t political or related to her reelection campaign.
Sutton hasn’t been afraid to keep the controversy going. She recently honored one of the key sponsors of the event, Pepsi, by declaring May 10 as, ““PepsiCo 10 Year Anniversary Day.”
“PepsiCo has proven to be a vital member of DeKalb’s business community and is great supporter of District 4,” Sutton said in a press release. “It is most appropriate that PepsiCo be recognized and celebrated for reaching this milestone. I look forward to another 10 or 20 years of PepsiCo being in DeKalb County.”
Pepsi’s chief rival, Coca Cola, is headquartered in Atlanta.
Sutton has given some interviews. She recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution she’s being targeted by her opponents on the County Commission, Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon. Sutton’s political consultant Warren Mosby, who has been romantically involved with Sutton in the past, ran against Gannon in the May 24 primary. Gannon easily won reelection, pulling down 80 percent of the vote against her challenger.
She told the AJC she is the victim of a “smear campaign” and said she’s looking out for the interests of her district, which she says has been treated poorly compared with the northern part of DeKalb County.
On May 24, Bradshaw led Sutton, getting 5,253 votes to Sutton’s 4,712. It’s a turnaround from his last showing against Sutton in 2012, which Sutton won with 73 percent of the votes.
“This means that our message and the type of campaign that we ran resonated with the people of District 4,” Bradshaw said in a Facebook post following the election. “The desire for change is strong and the major indicators are in our favor as we move forward.”