Black State Lawmakers Decry Flyers Showing Them As Puppets

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Two Black Democratic state legislators are accusing Virginia's Republican party of racism for sending out flyers with drawings showing them hoisted in the air by handheld strings — a depiction the party used to portray them as puppets of liberal Democrats in Washington.

The state GOP mailed out flyers targeting eight Democrats in competitive state House races: five who are white and three who are Black, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. All are portrayed as puppets next to the phrase, “D.C. liberals are pulling the strings in Richmond.” The only ones shown dangling above the ground are two of the Black lawmakers, Del. Josh Cole of Fredericksburg and Del. Alex Askew of Virginia Beach. The third Black lawmaker, Del. Roslyn Tyler of Sussex County, doesn’t appear suspended above the ground, the newspaper said.

Cole, who’s defending his seat against Republican challenger Tara Durant, described the flyers as a racist “dog whistle” that harkened back to Virginia’s history of lynching, and accused Republicans of "using racist tropes to get their voters to come out.”

The party denied racist intent, saying in a written statement that the mailers were sent against “eight candidates of all backgrounds.” The party said Democratic candidates think their “only path to victory is trying to trick Virginians into thinking it’s racist for anyone to hold any candidate accountable.”

Meanwhile, Democrat Del. Dan Helmer of Fairfax, who is Jewish, is decrying a mailer paid for by the state’s Republican party that features a shadowy picture of him gazing at piles of gold coins, WUSA-TV reported. Helmer's Republican opponent, Harold Pyon, an immigrant from Korea, said he has experienced discrimination and has always fought against it.

Mike Ginsberg, a Jewish member of the state GOP party’s central committee, said he didn’t see the flyer as anti-Semitic, but as a “traditional hard-hitting political piece that raises real issues about the rising cost of living in Northern Virginia.”