Black Virginia lawmakers criticize Republicans over flyers depicting them as puppets

Two Black Democratic state legislators from Virginia have accused the state’s Republican Party of using racist tropes after it sent out flyers depicting them as puppets hoisted in the air by handheld strings, The Associated Press reported.

The state GOP mailed out flyers targeting eight Democrats currently running for state House seats, five of whom are white and three of whom are Black, according to the AP. All of the candidates are depicted as puppets being held by strings under the phrase “D.C. liberals are pulling the strings in Richmond,” while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) can be seen looking on. But only two of the candidates — Black lawmakers Del. Josh Cole (D) and Del. Alex Askew (D) — are seen dangling over the ground, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  

The third Black lawmaker, Del. Roslyn Tyler (D), doesn’t appear suspended above the ground, the Times-Dispatch reported.

Both Askew and Cole criticized their depiction in the mailers, suggesting they evoked Virginia’s history of lynching. Cole called the mailers a “dog whistle” and accused the state GOP of “using racist tropes to get their voters to come out,” according to the AP.

The state GOP denied any racist intent, saying the “mailers were sent against eight candidates of all backgrounds,” the AP reported.

The party added in its statement that Democrats think their “only path to victory is trying to trick Virginians into thinking it’s racist for anyone to hold any candidate accountable.”

The Virginia Republican Party did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

Askew, who represents a swing district in Virginia Beach, tweeted that the state GOP party “is depicting me as bound & hanging by rope.” He said the flyers follow “an attack mailer that displayed a darkened, burning photo of my face.” 

Askew added that “depicting any black person as burning or hanging propagates some of the most dangerous, racist tropes in history.”

Cole, who is up for reelection against Republican Tara Durant, said that he heard that the mailers were being used in districts that the Republicans were hoping to flip, according to NBC Washington.

This year’s election in Virginia is being closely watched as a potential bellwether for the midterms in 2022, when Republicans hope to regain control of both chambers of Congress.

Early voting in Virginia has already begun, with Election Day set for Nov. 2.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Donald Trump Nancy Pelosi

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