JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 9 (UPI) -- Racial politics has re-emerged in the southern city of Jacksonville after racially offensive graffiti was sprayed on the headquarters of a black candidate for mayor in Tuesday's election.
Duval County sheriff Nat Glover, a black Democrat, is running against John Peyton, a white Republican, in a race that's become racially divisive despite efforts to avoid it.
Both candidates, residents and community leaders promised they would not let race become an issue in Glover's bid to become the first black mayor of a city struggling with the divide between the racial history of the Old South and the tolerance of the New South.
But then last weekend, graffiti saying, "No N----- Mayor" was sprayed on Glover's headquarters and "N----- Lover" was sprayed on the office building housing the offices of one of Glover's white supporters.
"It's despicable and certainly not consistent with what Jacksonville is all about," Glover said. "I think the city took race off the table when they elected me sheriff in 1995 and reaffirmed it in 1999, when I won with 81 percent of the vote."
Prior to the graffiti incident, Glover's campaign had begun running a radio ad saying Peyton has "a record to be ashamed of when it comes to the African-American community."
The Peyton campaign, which said it wasn't aware of the ads until late this week, issued a statement saying: "This is a shameful appeal based solely on race. First he (Glover) winks at racial graffiti on his building and refuses to remove it and now he has placed racial graffiti on the radio airwaves.
"This is the real Nat Glover who piously says he can unite the community but spews racial poison to divide us and promote racial tension," the Peyton statement said.
The Glover campaign retorted by distinguishing the "discussion of a candidate's record ... from racial slurs directed at a candidate."
Peyton is a vice president of family-owned Gate Petroleum. He has proposed firing Jacksonville's first black fire chief and to do away with the city's race and gender goals in city contracting.
Peyton also offered to send a volunteer crew over to Glover's campaign offices to clean up the graffiti and helped establish a $50,000 reward for the culprits. There have been no arrests.