The Reverend Peter Johnson is a civil rights activist and former confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. who spoke at an anti-Iraqi war protest at Bush's ranch in Crawford. Ken Mayfield is a Republican county commissioner who regularly spars with the lone African-American on the commissioners court, John Wiley Price, and has continually voted against budget increases for the jail and county employees. And yet, in a scheduled campaign appearance for Mayfield on Wednesday, none other than Johnson was slated to come out in favor of the three-term incumbent, not the Democratic challenger. WTF?
In a phone call with Buzz, Johnson explained that he has a strong working relationship with both Mayfield and Republican County Judge Margaret Keliher when it comes to issues that affect low-income people and minorities. Well, there's that. But Johnson also remembers that the Democratic candidate for county commissioner, Rose Renfroe, was a high-profile opponent of busing during her short stint on the Dallas City Council during the 1970s. And she didn't just express her opposition here and there: Renfroe spoke at anti-busing rallies and crusaded for a constitutional amendment to outlaw busing.
"Saying that she wasn't on the side of civil rights doesn't address the kind of vocal opponent she was," Johnson says. "We ought to be wise enough not to support people just because of what party they are in but look at their record."
Rev. Peter Johnson
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Johnson says that Renfroe was an enemy of the civil rights movement in the 1970s, registering heavy opposition to fair housing initiatives and single-member city council districts. "She was opposed to anything that was progressive for Hispanics or blacks," Johnson says.
So is it unusual for an old-fashioned liberal such as Johnson to come out in support of Mayfield?
"I am a yellow-dog Democrat but that doesn't mean that I'd support George Wallace," he says. (Renfroe has previously said that she wasn't against integration per se, just busing.)
Johnson is not the only Democrat unable to support Renfroe. Attorney Scott Chase, who came nearly defeated Renfroe in the Democratic primary, chose not to put party ahead of politics after she insinuated he was easy on pedophiles during a campaign phone blitz. In August, Chase told us, "Rose is clearly not qualified and is dishonest to boot." With enemies like this, who needs Republicans?