The discovery of a defaming campaign letter circulating in the City of Statesboro led to a confrontational exchange Tuesday at City Hall.
Councilmen Will Britt and Travis Chance, who this week learned a campaign flyer in support of incumbent Councilman Gary Lewis is spreading what they say is a dishonest and disappointing message to Statesboro citizens, confronted Lewis about the handout being disseminated in District 2.
“About two months ago, mayor, you talked to me concerning the upcoming election. We agreed that I would be very much out of this election. I would not be involved,” said Britt near the conclusion of Tuesday’s regular council meeting. “Yesterday, I found out that the candidate that is facing opposition has decided to do just the opposite of those wishes; and basically defame my character by making accusations against me and another councilman that are not true. If someone is going to talk about me negatively, I say do it right here and now.”
“That a flyer is being distributed, not by a committee, but by the individual running, is, plain and simple, not good for our council and is ugly,” he said. “So I ask you, Gary [Lewis] what have I done that causes this? I don’t understand.”
Lewis provided no answer to the inquiring councilman.
“I don’t have to comment on this right now,” said Lewis.
“So you have the stones to pass this out, but not to stand up and take credit for it,” said Chance. “This [letter] is perpetuated by you. Neither Will [Britt] nor I have come after you, but you’re going to throw this out into the public?”
“I don’t have to comment right now,” said Lewis. “And I am going to throw more than that when I get ready.”
When asked by the Statesboro Herald to expand on his comment about disbursing additional information Lewis said, “I didn’t make any comments. I am through talking to the Statesboro Herald for a while and am focusing on my campaign.”
The letter, which advocates Lewis’ re-election to city council, warns readers in all capital letters to “Beware,” and alleges that Britt and Chance have a “tactic to influence several other Afro-American candidates to oppose Councilman Lewis in the upcoming November Election and divide the votes.”
The flyer also claims the councilmen “are not concerned for the welfare of the people of Statesboro.”
Britt and Chance, along with the three men opposing Lewis for the District 2 council seat — Lance Turner, Sam Jones and Donald Logan — say the letter’s claims are entirely false.
“I am offended, and I think it is pitiful that he has done this,” said Britt. “[The message] is a lie. There is no truth to it at all.”
“Anyone who reads the piece of trash should consider the source,” said Chance. “I have no idea where this paranoia is coming from.”
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.