ATLANTA -- With the votes getting counted Tuesday night, one aspect of the Atlanta city election has taken an ugly turn. A city council candidate is denying he’s a member of the Ku Klux Klan after a racially-charged flyer was distributed in his district over the weekend.
The flyer was distributed in the parking lots of three churches Sunday, and despite some poor grammar and spelling, the message is obvious: It seeks to tie to the KKK a white candidate running for a seat now held by an African American.
One of the churches was Springfield Baptist Church, a mainstay in northwest Atlanta. The pastor had invited his friend Dustin Hillis to speak to the congregation Sunday.
"Dustin has been a visible face at our congregation," said Rev. Arthur Carson, the church's longtime pastor.
But as Hillis met with church members inside, outside in the parking lot, somebody was distributing flyers with what the church pastor says were some horrible lies about the candidate.
"This demagoguery – because that’s what it is – is evil. It’s sinful to even suggest," Carson said.
The flyer depicts Hillis alongside a hooded Ku Klux Klansman, and photoshops him wearing a Klan logo on a shirt. The church, and district, have been historically African American. But the community has been evolving racially.
"It does try to depict me as a KKK member," Hillis said. "This is ridiculous."
Hillis has been a staffer for Felicia Moore, the incumbent African American city councilwoman now running for city council president. Moore tells 11Alive News she is supporting Hillis’s candidacy.
"I know politics is sometimes terrible but this is just a whole new level of dirty and untrue," Hillis said.
The flyer was not credited.
Hillis is running against two other candidates including Kwame Abernathy, the son of the late civil rights legend Ralph Abernathy Jr. Abernathy didn’t return our phone calls and text messages, though Hillis says he does not suspect either of his opponents is behind the flyer.