Special Report: Addressing race in the mayoral race

The three candidates for mayor of Albany at a recent forum. / Sarah Bleau

Albany Mayoral Candidates Dorothy Hubbard, B.J. Fletcher and John White are discussing the issues: crime, education, jobs.

Some voters are discussing race.

"People bring it up because that's sort of natural to a lot of people," says White.

"It's just part of what our community has been around. The race issue is very serious in this community. We're very divided," says Fletcher. "We have four sides -- north, south, east and west -- but unfortunately we also have three sides: white, black and brown."

Whispers are circulating among some citizens saying there will be a runoff on election night because Fletcher will receive the white votes and the black population will split between Hubbard and White.

It could happen.

According to numbers provided by the Voter Registration and Elections Office, 39,835 percent of voters are registered in Albany; 26,623 of them are black, 11,879 are white.

If all of the white voters choose Fletcher and an equal half of the black voters elect either White or Hubbard, Fletcher would receive 30 percent of the vote while White and Hubbard would each receive approximately 33 percent of the vote (counting other minorities registered to vote, 35 percent).

A mayoral candidate must have 50 percent plus one vote to win the election.

Some voters say Fletcher will lose because she is a white candidate in a city with a majority black population.

"If you don't want to vote for me because I'm not a man, that's your ignorance. If you don't want to vote for me because I'm not black, that's your ignorance," says Fletcher.

The mayoral candidates say these racial whispers from citizens stem from years of habit.

"They look at that and have been conditioned over the years to look at that. Albany is 70 percent black. It is not 70 percent black because black people moved into this community; it's 70 percent because white people moved out," says White. "It is left to us now to make sure that this community continues with that 30 percent white population."

White recently told an anecdote during an Oct. 17 debate about white neighbors moving out and not welcoming him when he moved into a "white neighborhood." Hubbard told him then that we need a mayor who will not make every issue about race.

"A lot of people look at data and statistics and form conclusions but we're going to show them that we are moving beyond that and we are ready to move our city forward," says Hubbard.

Fletcher says its racial remarks â" whether said aloud or in a whisper â" that keeps the city from growing.

"People who have looked here that could have created jobs, because they go out into the real world to have lunch at one of our restaurants and they get to talking with people, they start hearing the racist remarks and they're taken back," she says.

With citizens continuing to converse about the issue of race, how do you make the city and its community move forward?

"On the mindset of race, I don't know how we'll ever get out of that. I think it's just like the religious wars in other parts of the world, we can't fix those wars," says White

"We all have the same issues we are interested in, things that we want to see happen," says Hubbard. "So in order for that to occur we are going to have to work together; it is not going to work with the divisiveness."

But is race what candidates think the mayoral race will come down to?

"Well that's a guessing game on that part. This contest is not about race. This contest is about experience and who can deliver the goods for this community," says White.

Despite the Albany population consisting of a black majority, Hubbard says she does not feel as though her ethnicity gives her an advantage.

"If we get people out to vote -- and I believe we will -- I believe I can win it and I believe that I'm going to win it, but I don't think it has to do with the color of my skin," says Hubbard.

Fletcher says she knows the people of the Albany community; she says the mayoral election will not be about a race issue but rather a race with issues.

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