Johnny Blash standing with one of his vandalized campaign signs. (Photo by Becky Holland, courtesy of the Tri-County Monitor)
The second of Johnny Blash's vandalized campaign signs. (Photo by Becky Holland, courtesy of the Tri-County Monitor)
Another view of Johnny Blash's vandalized campaign signs. (Photo by Becky Holland, courtesy of the Tri-County Monitor)
Johnny Blash's Independence Day was interrupted by a call that the candidate for Bleckley County Sheriff should check on his campaign signs.
One had been vandalized. Later, he learned a second had been as well.
"I was surprised that would happen in Bleckley County," Blash said.
Below his name on the black and white sign, someone painted over the bottom half with the words "FREE CHICKEN."
Blash, a Pulaski County deputy, was on duty when he received the call. Initially, he said he was confused by the meaning.
"I had to call a white associate of mine to ask what 'FREE CHICKEN' meant. He said, 'Johnny, you know that's racial.'"
Blash said he hasn't yet been able to fix the signs, which are at opposite ends of Cochran.
His opponent in the race, Bleckley County Sheriff Harold Lancaster, is the man in charge of the investigation.
Lancaster said neither he nor his camp were responsible for the vandalism.
"I don't condone that in any way," he said, "My folks wouldn't even be around people who would stoop that low."
"It's sad that people go off and do stupid things like this," Lancaster said.
Blash, a former Bibb County Sheriff's deputy, said he doesn't suspect his opponent. However, he's skeptical that his case will be given the same attention as others.
"Things get heated in a race like this," he said. "You have to understand, I am campaigning against (Lancaster), so I would seriously doubt it gets fully investigated."
Lancaster disputed his opponent's assumption.
"I don't have a bit of trouble doing my job no matter who it is for," he said.
The incumbent said that he thinks the department will soon "get a lead and make an arrest for criminal damage to property."
Lancaster says the graffiti artist would face a misdemeanor charge, criminal damage to property. That comes with a fine up to $1,000 and a maximum sentence of one year.
If elected, Blash would be the first African-American sheriff in Bleckley County's 100 year history, but he never expected his campaign to hatch any racial issues.
The vandalism also has people throughout the area clucking.
Jerry Tuck from Cochran says, "I moved here in 1974 and racial prejudice was alive and well beyond my thoughts and imagination. I really thought we had come farther than that."
Blash says the insult won't crack his campaign. He plans to refurbish his signs and continue on with the race.