City Council candidate condemns ‘race-baiting’ mailer put out to ‘scare’ white voters

Missouri Rep. Brandon Ellington denied entry into Crossroads Correctional Facility

Missouri Rep. Brandon Ellington was denied access to the Crossroads Correctional Facility in Cameron, Missouri on Thursday, August 30, 2018.
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Missouri Rep. Brandon Ellington was denied access to the Crossroads Correctional Facility in Cameron, Missouri on Thursday, August 30, 2018.

Rep. Brandon Ellington on Friday condemned a “race-baiting” mailer put out in the final weeks of his campaign for City Council by an outside group that hasn’t disclosed its donors.

The mailer shows an edited version of a photo of Ellington, a four-term member of the Missouri House running for the 3rd District at-large seat, standing in front of a window holding a rifle. A skyline view of the Country Club Plaza was edited into the background. Ellington said the original photo was the cover of an album he released in his early 20s.

On the same side, the mailer says Ellington is “too extreme for our City Council.”

“It’d be one thing to try and attack me on my record or anything of that nature,” Ellington said, “but to pull up an album cover and try to edit it and target it toward white voters.”

He added: “I mean, you put a black man with a rifle over the plaza, you can’t be going after anything but trying to scare people that live in that area.”

And the mailers were put out by a group — Concerned Citizens of Waldo — that hasn’t reported spending on them.

Ellington believes his opponent, Wallace Hartsfield, II, pastor of the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, is behind the attack. But Hartsfield, who is also black, denies that.

“I had nothing, absolutely, to do with the mailer at any level,” Hartsfield said. “I didn’t create it. I didn’t publish it. I didn’t circulate it. I didn’t commission it. And I absolutely do not approve of nor condone the racial profiling or stereotyping that’s depicted in this mailer. Historically it’s these kind of images that have been utilized to both devalue and stigmatize blacks.”

Hartsfield, who said he would be a coalition-builder on the council, said he was disappointed someone would use such tactics.

“Even though Rep. Ellington is my opponent, I have the utmost respect for him and I’m sorry that persons would utilize a picture of him when he was 20 years old to somehow suggest that this is the totality of who he is,” Hartsfield said.

The mailers have been circulating since at least the beginning of the week, but Concerned Citizens of Waldo hasn’t reported any fundraising or spending since last year, a possible breach of campaign finance requirements.

According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, in the final days of an election, PACs are required to report within 24 hours any spending over $250. Reports were also due Monday for the campaign period from early May until early June.

Depending on when the group purchased and sent the mailers, they would have likely been required to file one of those reports.

Without that, it’s unclear who is funding the mailer.

In 2015, the last time Kansas City elected a new City Council, the group was primarily funded by the now-defunct Coalition 4 Progress PAC.

Before the mailers were sent out, the original photo of Ellington’s album cover began circulating on Facebook.

On the other side of the mailer, Ellington is accused being rated highly by the National Rifle Association. Ellington said he was “pro-Second Amendment” and had voted against some gun reform.

It also says he carries a gun in the Capitol.

Ellington questioned in response whether white state legislators would face questions about their decision to carry a firearm.

It also criticizes his vote against ethics reforms that were later put on the ballot through “Clean Missouri,” including a ban on lobbyists gifts and a revised redistricting system. It notes he has taken lobbyist gifts as a Missouri legislator.

Ellington said he had concerns about Clean Missouri, but noted he did not vote for a Missouri House resolution this spring that would have undone much of the reforms.

On the issue of gifts, Ellington said the bulk are “related to bringing the children of Kansas City up to the Capitol.”

“I provide a bus. I provide lunch, dinner and a snack,” Ellington said.

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Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.