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UPDATE: Fields ‘changes mind’ on plans to concede election after racist comment

Angie Mayes • Aug 5, 2018 at 4:02 PM

A Wilson County Commission candidate whose race ended in a tie and originally planned to concede Sunday, changed his mind only hours later and plans to see how the provisional ballot count will end Wednesday after he made racially charged comments on Facebook about his opponent’s family.

A Facebook comment by Wilson County Commission District 1 candidate Robert Fields regarding his opponent’s family appeared Friday on Facebook. Several people came to Fields’ opponent, Tim Roehler’s defense and called Fields a “racist.”

The comment, which Fields said Sunday was an answer to a question, alleged Roehler hid the fact he is in an interracial marriage. Many people, including Roehler, have commented on Facebook, calling Fields a racist and calling for him to concede the election.

On Sunday afternoon, Fields said he would “concede the race to Mr. Roehler [on Monday] and will fully support him.” 

Later Sunday evening, Fields told The Democrat he had changed his mind and was going to wait for the provisional ballots to be counted, which will take place Wednesday. 

“I have changed my mind,” he said in a voicemail. “I am not going to concede on Monday. I will wait and see what the provisional ballots say on Wednesday.”

Roehler wrote an open letter on his candidate Facebook page Sunday and said Fields’ comments were made after the tie between the two in the election.

“On Aug. 3, the day after our announced ‘tie,’ you posted on your public Facebook page information about the race,” Roehler said in his post. “I visited your page on that day and read a comment by yourself that was not only inaccurate but an affront to my family: ‘He kept quiet that he is a Democrat, an interracial couple (and) two interracial children.’

“I will address the issues of my party affiliation and occupations later in this letter, but the critical matter and one I will address first is your racism.  Yes, you sir, are a racist. In listing my supposed negatives, you felt necessary to interject that my wife is of a different race than me, and that we have interracial children. This implicitly shows you clearly believe that her (my wife’s) race is a negative or that our marriage somehow makes me inferior to you. The definition of a racist is ‘a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another,’ and you meet this definition.”

Roehler admitted he may “even lose support or standing for bringing this issue up, but your insult to my family and my desire to serve the community justify my course of action. A racist person is unfit to serve in public office, and if by chance you win this election, it is my hope that the community sees fit to recall you.”

On Sunday, Fields emphatically said, “I am not a racist. I was simply answering a question [that the race would be determined by two provisional votes].

“In retrospect, I can see that the comment can be considered racist, but I am not a racist.”

Fields and Roehler both received 526 votes in District 1 in Thursday’s Wilson County General Election. Both Fields and Roehler sought to replace Commissioner Becky Siever, who chose not to seek re-election. Kevin Graves and incumbent Kenny Reich both received 571 votes in District 6.

Prior to Fields’ concession, provisional ballots could have broken the tie when the election is certified Wednesday, or if the tie remained, it could have been up to the Wilson County Commission to decide what to do. Administrator of Elections Phillip Warren said Friday that District 1 has two provisional ballots. The two provisional ballots cast will be researched to determine whether the votes are counted and unsealed Wednesday to possibly determine the outcome of the race. If neither count nor both count and are split between the two candidates, the race would have remained a tie. It’s also possible both could count but neither voter cast a ballot in the commission race.

District 6 didn’t have any provisional ballots, so that race will remain a tie until it’s broken.  

According to Wilson County attorney Mike Jennings, state law dictates the Wilson County Commission could opt to cast the deciding vote or the race could be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot as a runoff. Jennings said a decision would be made after Wednesday when the election is certified.

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