Friends: You may have read an article and/or editorial in today’s Times-Free Press that three Chattanooga Tea Party posts questioned a local school board candidate’s citizenship and suggested he is a socialist. That’s partly true.
This all began as we were looking into past social media posts by the candidate, as we typically do on local candidates for government offices we know relatively little about. Often, these candidates spout glowing generalities that make it difficult for voters to get a good understanding about the types of policies they would promote on the school board, such as for/against Common Core Math, how American history is taught (America as an exceptional country or as a global pariah?), how beholden they would be to the increasingly Leftist teachers union and so forth.
One Facebook post from a candidate that appeared in 2016 caught the attention of our researchers. In the post, which is obviously partly tongue-in-cheek, he stated:
The part of this post that caught our attention reads: “… that believing democratic socialists (sic) countries (as Costa Rica is) are not awful places to live …” This led to frequent opinion contributor April Eidson to write a letter published July 14 in Chattanoogan.com. As you can see in her letter, she doesn’t question Mr. Perez’s citizenship, just his beliefs in what he calls “democratic socialists countries.” She also referenced an ad/post that Kathy Lennon and Marco Perez ran in Facebook, calling on students to protest police brutality. Mr. Perez later pulled his ad/post (Hey! We have something in common!). Here is that ad:
After Ms. Eidson’s post, we linked to her article on July 15 and included some art that, admittedly, provocatively played up the “democratic socialists” comment by Mr. Perez, much as the TFP’s political cartoonist would (only better). After all, why should the TFP have exclusive rights to caricature political subjects? The "importing" refers to the socialist ideology, not Mr. Perez. There the post stood for 10 days with only a few relatively supportive comments. Here is the art from that post:
Next, apparently somebody posted a Facebook ad allegedly representing the Chattanooga Tea Party that we had never seen before the Chattanoogan’s John Wilson brought it to our attention July 25. Interestingly, it came to John’s attention via Aaron Fowles, vice president of the Hamilton County Fund for Children and Public Education, the teacher union's political action committee. Did it post that ad to muddy the waters? Who knows? That's when comments responding negatively to our post (not ad) above blew up. Our regular Facebook readers will note the ad below doesn’t vaguely approach the design quality of our typical ads (which use JPG files, not PNG files). Simply put, the ad was not ours and was never posted to our Facebook page. Here is that ad:
Finally, on Saturday, July 25, we temporarily ran a poll that asked, “Should Hamilton County Elected Officials and Hamilton County School Board Officials be US Natural Born Citizens to represent our local community?” I pulled that poll after it had been up about an hour, confirming that only the President is required to be a natural-born citizen. Frankly, it was irrelevant.
Although the basic question of citizenship for public office is certainly legitimate (the Election Commission doesn't directly vet, but only requires oaths), we gladly acknowledge that Mr. Perez is an American citizen with every right to run for office any other citizen would enjoy. We asked not because his name is Mr. Perez, but that much was unknown locally about him before 2012. We sincerely apologize for the clumsy way we approached that issue. It would have been better to have been more direct. We also gratefully acknowledge that all American families ultimately emigrated from somewhere. We welcome those who go through the rigorous immigration process – who choose to be Americans – as well as those born as American citizens through birthright. Those of us who have not lived under other systems can certainly learn from those who have.
Ultimately, throughout these social media posts and misposts, our primary objective was to try to uncover the likely policies candidates would seek to put into place. The old “democratic socialists” comment and the post encouraging public school students to attend a political protest give us pause. It’s one thing to encourage students to exercise their First Amendment rights, but students themselves need to choose which stands to take without coercion or invitations – however subtle or couched as “encouragement” – from authority figures. And would the candidate truly represent parents, students and taxpayers’ interests to the HCDE – or vice versa?
The bottom line: we will never stand down nor be intimidated from asking basic questions.
Chattanooga Tea Party