Minorities outnumber whites in Gwinnett County, but fail to vote in their best interests

5/10/2013, noon
The way Penny Poole, a secretary with the United Ebony Society sees it, blacks in Gwinnett should look in the ...
Early voters line up for a 2 to 2 1/2 hour wait to cast their ballots at the Cobb County Board of Elections & Registration office in, Marietta, Ga., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Curtis Compton)

Thousands of Gwinnett residents didn’t make a difference in November 2012.

Nearly 100,000 of Gwinnett’s registered voters did not vote in the general election. Half of those registered voters who didn’t cast ballots were nonwhite, records show.

Minority voters who checked out of the political process last November contributed to the defeat of several local hopefuls running for county offices who were sensitive to minority issues.

Brian Whiteside, an African-American lawyer, lost his bid for Gwinnett County Superior Clerk of Court.

Jennifer Falk, a veteran community activist who happens to white, lost her race for school board in Duluth. Falk has publicly fought against Gwinnett County’s disparate punishment of minority students since the early 2000s. She also filed a federal discrimination complaint with the Office of Civil Rights against Gwinnett Schools for setting the bar for student achievement lower for minority students and children with disabilities than for whites on a state contract.

Another school board candidate, Hussein K. Dido, a fellow at the Emory University School of Medicine, lost his bid to represent Norcross. Dido, who is black, was defeated by a white incumbent of 40 years who was elected in a newly rezoned district that has a low-income black, Hispanic and Asian base. The community’s boundaries were redrawn to attract minority representation.

Louise Radloff, a longtime Republican in her late 70s who has served as a school board member since the Nixon presidential administration, won the seat Dido campaigned for. She was returned to office for her 11th term after switching parties in 2012 to run as a Democrat.

“They redrew the lines; the district that I represent is very culturally diverse and is very high poverty. I felt that I was best able to meet the needs of the community,” Radloff said of her re-election.

Critics say switching parties was a strategy for Radloff to get the minority vote. She denies it.

“My core values whether they are Democrat or Republican, stayed pretty much the same,” she said. “A kid is a kid. They may come from different backgrounds. But in order for Americans to be successful, you have to have a quality public education system.”

Whether Radloff’s move was strategic or not, it was effective. Blacks traditionally support Democrats in presidential elections. Dido, her black opponent who is a private school administrator with African roots, ran as a Republican. He was defeated.

Gwinnett branch NAACP President Mark Williams said he finds Radloff’s victory particularly frustrating.

He said it is a prime example of why some blacks are disenchanted with Gwinnett politics and the chokehold that whites have on county government.

“We have got a problem in Gwinnett when a Republican who served for 40 years is allowed to switch over and run as a Democrat and basically walk in, and the [Democrat] who ran against her four years ago and almost defeated her is talked out of running again so she can win,” Williams said.

When Radloff became a Democrat, Williams said, the door was shut on another minority who was preparing to unseat her.