Bill Torpy at Large: Desperate DeKalb commissioner returns to racial sewer

Two months ago, I wrote that DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton was stooping to a new race-baiting low when she distributed a flyer showing that her opponent, a black man named Steve Bradshaw, is married to a white woman.

The photo was distributed in District 4, which includes Stone Mountain. The incumbent had wearied voters with repeated allegations of ethical shenanigans and she was feeling apprehensive about clinging to her gig. So she released an 11th-hour, pre-primary sliming, apparently hoping voters in the heavily African-American district would have a problem with Bradshaw’s marriage.

Bradshaw polled 48 percent to Sutton's 43 in the Democratic primary, so they're headed to a runoff. Now, Sutton has saved her best (and I mean worst) for last.

Last time, she went for standard fare in racial DeKalb politics, saying her opponent was a toady for white Republicans from the county’s north end.

This time she's not content to simply go the Uncle Tom route. No, she's going full-tilt, off-the chain Quentin Tarantino, conjuring up the evocative director's movie "Django Unchained" for new campaign mud.

Sutton in her newest 11th-hour defilement has released a flier comparing Bradshaw to “Stephen,” the house slave in Django, relishing that the movie character and her opponent share the same name. The flier is headlined “DeKalb County is not Candyland,” referring to the plantation from the movie, complete with a photo of the fictional Stephen.

If you hadn’t seen the movie, the character Stephen, played by the remarkable Samuel L. Jackson, starts out as a typical bootlicker. But as the movie wears on, he is revealed to be a conniving, manipulative and sinister fellow who is as evil as his dimwitted master.

Jackson called his character the “most hated Negro in cinematic history.”

And this is the sewer into which the esteemed commissioner decided to bend to collect her sludge. Sutton isn’t going for dirty laundry, she’s employing a dirty bomb.

“Voters must decide by July 26th to Re-elect a Fighter or elect a Sellout,” she wrote before continuing with five more long paragraphs of conspiracy and intrigue.

I called Sutton for comment but got no answer.

She recently told my colleague Mark Niesse, “I think my letter says exactly what I mean.”

“I was threatened years ago that if I didn’t step and fetch, they were going to come after me, and they did,” she said.

“They” are a powerful, mysterious force that can work wonders in politics. Donald Trump has used it effectively. Sutton aims to to the same.

The “step and fetch,” which she also used in her flier, is another nice twist to cinematic history: Stepin Fetchit is the long-ago movie character who played up to white folks’ worst stereotypes of blacks.

Well done, Commissioner, you are a true uniter during this time of growing racial mistrust and divisiveness. Not!

Bradshaw writes off the nasty verbiage as the utterances of a desperate politician. (May I suggest “desperado” if we are to continue with the Western movie theme?)

“She’ll say anything, stoop to anything to hang onto her job,” he said. There’s good reason she might feel passionately about keeping her job — Sutton was in dire financial straits when first elected eight years ago.

I see from Bradshaw’s campaign filings that he’s got contributions from both white and black residents. Former CEO Liane Levetan and Commissioner Gale Walldorff, who are white, gave him money as did business and civic leader Juanito Baranco and Solicitor Sherry Boston, who are black.

Boston just beat the current district attorney, running on a campaign of cleaning up DeKalb, which could use a broom and shovel.

“I was really impressed with Steve,” Boston told me. “He will bring ethical, honest and transparent leadership to DeKalb County, which is what I ran on.”

Asked about Sutton’s flier, she added, “What I saw is not where we need to go.”

Sutton is fighting a slew of ethics complaints that accuse her of spending public money on a personal attorney, home office equipment and a portrait of President Barack Obama at a charity fundraiser, as well as paying her then-boyfriend $34,000 in consulting fees. She has said her spending was legit.

Sutton has filed a lawsuit saying the ethics board is illegal, even though 92 percent of DeKalb voters last year said they want tougher ethics accounting.

Her tactics are reminiscent of former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, a legendary divisive political player from our past.

In 2002, McKinney supporters called her challenger Denise Majette a “Tomette,” apparently Uncle Tom’s female friend.

Soon, the Congresswoman was out of a job. Voters had had enough of her.

Here’s to history repeating itself.