Friday, October 26, 2012

TOP STORY >> Tempers fly in front of voters

Leader editor

Jacksonville Alderman Terry Sansing’s mother stood all week in front of the Jacksonville Community Center, where early voting had started Monday.

Dorothy Conley, who will be 79 next month, is a soft-spoken Mississippi native who moved here when her husband was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base. She was holding up a sign in the parking lot with her son’s name on it and talking to voters as they passed by.

She wasn’t too happy that her son’s opponent, Rizelle Aaron, who was standing nearby with his sign, kept yelling at everyone to vote for him and calling her son a racist.

“Vote for me,” Aaron kept saying. For several days, she tried to ignore Aaron, but then she became more upset when she heard Aaron say several times, “Don’t vote for Terry Sansing. He’s a Confederate soldier.”

Aaron had seen a picture of Sansing in The Leader in a 19th Century outfit that was taken at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Park during Living History Day. Aaron put the picture on Facebook without our permission, and has been telling voters Sansing was dressed up as a slaveholder.

Sansing says he was trying to look like Col. Sanders. “I was going for the Kentucky colonel look,” the alderman told us. “I was proud of that look. I was not wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform. I was wearing a red shirt. I would have been a dead target.”

“I may be from Mississippi,” he continued, “but my sympathies are farther north of the Mason-Dixon line.” He said he wants to join the 25th Missouri Detachment, a group of Civil War re-enactors on the Union side.

“I got sick and tired of him belittling my son,” Mrs. Conley said. “I’ve got to defend my children. Terry had nothing to do with slavery.”

Aaron, who says he’s retired from the Army and the Marines, says Mrs. Conley came up to him and scraped his arm with her sign. He filed a police report over the incident.

Terry Sansing says, “What kind of an ex-Marine are you if a 79-year-old woman can take you out with a sign?”

Mrs. Conley says she hardly touched him. “I didn’t injure him,” she says.

Aaron says she insulted him by saying that even though he was a descendant of slaves, he should be grateful he was living in America.

Aaron said she was suggesting he go back to Africa.

“I’m not a racist,” she said. “I’m a calm person till somebody does something to my boys. Then I’ve got to speak up.”

Aaron, who says he’s disabled, complains that his opponents are ganging up on him. They’re bringing up his run-ins with the law, which includes two convictions in Jacksonville — third-degree domestic battery and third-degree assault on a family member. He was also found guilty of parking in a handicapped zone.

For a disabled veteran, he has remarkable stamina, standing in the parking lot, drumming up support all week.

Aaron was telling people outside the community center that he’d won a lawsuit against a newspaper for printing lies about him. If he filed that suit, it wasn’t against The Leader. No one has ever won a libel suit against us, because you can’t libel someone for printing the truth.

He’s also claimed he has a college degree, but there’s no record he’s every finished college.

The Jacksonville police chief went by the community center Friday morning after he’d heard about the candidates and their supporters hurling insults at each other, but the sides stayed away from each other and everyone was well-behaved.

The rain and the cold kept many voters away. Retired Col. Bill Kehler, a former commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, stood outside the community center with a sign for Rep. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), a state Senate candidate who’s running against Rep. Barry Hyde (R-North Little Rock).

Kehler was standing next to Freddie Booker, another black candidate for Jacksonville City Council, who is running against Mary Twitty. Booker had worked for Kehler on the base more than 30 years ago.

Despite the weather, Mrs. Conley was going back to the community center.

“I’m going down there to support my son,” she said. “There’s got to be human kindness in this world. You’ve got to speak up.”