Charlie Crist, Democrats should condemn Loranne Ausley’s racist mailer
Loranne Ausley. Image via Colin Hackley

The ad showed her Black opponent on a shooting target.

Loranne Ausley deserves to be called out for an offensive campaign mailer depicting her Republican opponent for the Florida Senate, a Black man, on a shooting target.

The mailer inspires Jim Crowe era iconography, putting a Black man literally as a target.

It doesn’t matter what the message is — in this case shining a light on the GOP’s opposition to gun control measures and her opponent’s guilt by association — the imagery smacks of racism at worst and a serious level of tone deafness at best.

The mailer supporting Ausley’s re-election shows Republican challenger Corey Simon on a shooting target, the photo in black and white with shell casings littered below it.

David Pilgrim, the founder of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Michigan, put it well. He noted the U.S. has a “long and sad history of using Blacks as targets,” according to City & State Florida. That’s not just figurative. Over the summer photographs surfaced of police officers in Michigan using images of Black men on targets for shooting practice.

As an elected official who prides herself on championing issues that benefit communities of color — Ausley fought to remove Confederate statues and openly supports Black Lives Matter — she should know better.

She should also be aware of how her family history can easily catch up to her when this type of imagery is spread. Ausley’s ancestors owned a family plantation where they also bought and sold slaves. The Ausleys reportedly partnered with White supremacists and fought against desegregation on buses and in schools as early as the 1970s, according to the Capitolist.

Beyond acknowledging her position of privilege, Ausley has yet to publicly acknowledge her family’s roots.

Fellow Democrats, especially Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book who leads the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee that paid for the ad, should condemn — if not the words — the imagery on the mailer, which also depicted school-aged children on shooting targets.

And Ausley needs to step up. So far she has pivoted away from the ad, arguing she didn’t approve it. That’s either not true, or the ad violated election law, which requires candidate approval for third-party advertisements supporting them. The committee behind the mailer says it was approved, contradicting Ausley’s own assertion.

There’s so much here to unpack, and so many reasons why any Democrat on the ballot this cycle should have the guts to condemn this racist imagery and the hypocrisy that comes with it.

You cannot be the party that supports people of color and, at the same time, sit quietly while a colleague allows images to spread of a Black opponent as a shooting target.

Ausley has a decent advantage in her Panhandle-based District 3; there are about 45,000 more Democrats in the district than Republicans and the district went for President Joe Biden in 2020 by about 9 percentage points. This mailer could erode that advantage if she’s not careful, and smart, about how she handles it.

Evasion tactics and fingerpointing aren’t going to get it done. She needs to first apologize for a shortsighted design choice and pledge to learn from it. And she needs to directly apologize to her opponent.

Then she needs to own up to her family history.

In the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

While I am not suggesting that the sins of our parents — or in this case several generations beyond that — should entirely be our burden to bear, it is imperative she acknowledge what so many people in her party are trying to emphasize.

This country was founded on racism, and the vestiges of that remain. Having slave-owning ancestors doesn’t make Ausley a racist in and of itself, but it does mean she should acknowledge it and show how she’s working toward continued healing.

This mailer does the absolute opposite.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  • Tom

    October 4, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    I’m a huge racist and supporter of right wing terrorism.

  • Graciela Catasus

    October 7, 2022 at 12:41 pm

    Tom, By your own account, you should be in jail! Have you ever heard of “live and let live” or read about the “Golden Rule”? Oh, sorry, you probably cannot read and I doubt if you have any teeth!

Comments are closed.


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