The Houston Chronicle reports that Ben Mendez, a candidate for the City Council District I, has lost a key backer in his campaign for the City Council. This occurred in response to two serious issues that have arisen over Mendez’s candidacy.
Much like the frontrunner in the open election of District D, Dwight Boykins, Ben Mendez (a self-proclaimed frontrunner himself) has seen a plethora of attacks in the heavily Democratic district for either not being Democratic enough or for being a closet Republican. Among the many aversions cast upon Mendez is that he voted for John McCain, a partisan attack reminiscent of this debunked mailer against Dwight Boykins.
However, what caused the endorsement withdrawal in Mendez’s case was a far less venial issue. The backer, William Lawson, is a legend in both the City’s history of Civil Rights as well as its African-American community. While District I does not have a very high black population, the turnout among the community in Houston during municipal elections is remarkably high. Accordingly, Mendez has been begging for Lawson’s support throughout his campaign. Mendez does not have a “Supporters” page on his website, but if he did, I would imagine it would place Lawson’s name front and center.
In response to alleged issues with Mendez’s integrity, his campaign’s tactics and alleged comments of his, Lawson withdrew his support of Mendez in a strongly worded open letter. I have reprinted the letter below (emphasis added):
I have been unable to reach your campaign office by phone, and nothing in your literature gives me an e-mail address, or even the physical address of your campaign office beyond a P. 0. Box, so I have to return to the old tradition of mailed letters.
This is written with some sadness. I am withdrawing my public support of your campaign, and will ask that you no longer use my name. I have some serious problems regarding your position on the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl. I am naïve, and not very sophisticated in political positions, but I am a serious advocate of the weak. You sounded insensitive to the predicament of that child. I don’t know the particulars of the Graci Garces issue, but I likewise have problems with negative campaigning.
I admire you as a civic leader, as a businessman, and as a friend. I think you will make a good Councilman for District I. I simply cannot continue to take a stand for underclasses and give public endorse-ment for someone who would ignore them.
It may be better that I could not reach you electronically. This way you have it in writing.
With some pain,
[/s] William “Bill” Lawson
The “Graci Garces issue” that Lawson references is an item first dug up back in May, when Ben Mendez allegedly spread around an unflattering photograph of his opponent. At the time, Mendez’s campaign vehemently denied that they had spread around the photo and the issue eventually went away.
The other issue that Lawson reference is what, as the title of this post suggests, is unspeakably offensive. The reference of the unspeakable crimes committed against an 11-year old girl, of course, are relating to the infamous Cleveland Gang Rape case that took place in 2010, and was largely prosecuted in 2012 (with all of the accused being found guilty and given lengthy sentences, including life in prison). Many in the community accused the media and many in the community of painting too sympathetic a picture of the eighteen men who simultaneously raped a child. The most famous of which was Quannel X, a local community activist, who suggested that it was somehow the young child’s fault for being gang raped. Other common calumnies in this case were that child “looked older,” “dressed older” and was a seductress who attempted to trick men into raping her. If Mendez indeed made an
insensitive unspeakably offensive comment about this issue, it would have probably been along those lines of faulty reasoning.
Mendez’s campaign, for its part, has vehemently denied this association. Joaquin Martinez, Mendez’s campaign manager, provided the following statement:
Regarding the Chronicle blog on Ben Mendez, as a father he finds such suggestions abhorrent and reprehensible. As a front-runner in District I Ben Mendez remains committed to running a positive campaign based upon the issues and the needs of the district. It is unfortunate when opponents respond to the heat of competition by circulating false statements and negative attacks.
Leticia Ablaza’s campaign could not be reached for comment, while Robert Gallegos and Graci Garces’ campaigns, respectively, declined to comment.
As livid as these comments made me, and as much as I want to tear into Mendez for holding such unspeakably offensive views, we all must exercise some restraint on this issue until more information can come out. Given the dirty tactics being used thus far in the campaign, it would not surprise me if the allegations against Mendez turned out to be false. However, I will be keeping up on the issue, and if the allegations turn out to be true, I will show no mercy in my treatment of the campaign.