Hisel says vote conviction, not culture

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 2004

When it comes to race and politics in Selma, local businessman and mayoral candidate Gene Hisel has a simple message.

Vote conviction, not culture.

“If the color of one’s skin was not visible in the election of candidates, a more honest evaluation would be determined by our voting public,” Hisel said. “Yes, we have cultural differences. Yes, we have opinion differences.

Email newsletter signup

However, we must stand together.”

Though it was only four years ago that Mayor Joe Smitherman was voted out of office, the common perception is that Selma’s votes are broken along racial lines.

However, there are signs that it is changing.

In a run-off election for the District Judge race, challenger Bob Armstrong defeated three-term incumbent Nathaniel Walker.

Many in the media and Armstrong himself noted that many voters ignored racial boundaries for him to win.

Many hailed the victory as a sign that Selma is starting to put its history of racial tension and conflict in the past.

“The election proved that people are becoming less sensitive to a person’s race or political clout,” Hisel said. “When concerned voters feel their basic needs will be met, their desires will be considered and open, honest communication is given, racial boundaries will be crossed to elect their candidate.”

Still, one victory or even a dozen, doesn’t mean that politics have become color blind.

“Race in politics is a very real part of the election process in our state, but especially in our city of Selma,” Hisel said. “The bumps experienced here certainly dictate close scrutiny in voter practices. Citizens are looking for fairness and respect in regards to their strength in the voting booth.”

As the only white candidate in the mayor’s race this year, Hisel said he has faced some people not willing to listen to his ideas because of his color.

“Many doors have been closed to my message,” he said. “Many because of race and others because of my wanting to change Selma from a political city to a people city.”

The ability for Selma to set aside cultural differences is the key to moving forward, according to Hisel.

“Cohesiveness of the citizens in this city will always be the key to success and progress,” Hisel said. “A hindrance to an unbiased election process is the circles of power, both black and white, that use any means to secure their political existence and profit through political controversy.”

In the end, Hisel says, voting based on race or culture stands in the way of progress.

“Voting along racial lines, replacement voting, voting to defeat another no matter the qualifications or platform, or voting for political reasons will not enhance or encourage the

selection of the proper people to lead our city,” Hisel said.