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‘It is a sad day when we use words like bigot and white supremacists…because of differing political views’

If Harry Wiggins didn’t single handedly hand over the election to Jackson Miller, he certainly helped him along to victory.

Wiggins, the Chairman of Prince William’s Democratic Committee on Tuesday likened Miller — a long-serving Republican in the House of Delegates, past Manassas City Counselor, and a former police officer in Arlington and Prince William counties — to President Trump, and called both white supremacists.

Residents both black and white have denounced his statement.

“The official comment from the [Prince William County] Democratic Chair may have just solidified my undecided vote for Mr. Miller. The name-calling in national politics is bad enough. If Mr. Wiggins wishes to bring that style of politics to [Prince William County], I will vote against his candidate every time,” James Johnson, of Bristow posted to Facebook.

Wiggins’s comments plunge our community deeper into the political divide, escalating our county into what many see the new national political status quo of an angry, polarized nation full of discontent and hate.

“It is a sad day when we begin to use words like bigot and white supremacists as default insults and opinions because of differing political views. Mr. Wiggins comments on Delegate Miller were unfounded and shameful. They represent everything that we should be against. We can all share different views without destroying another person’s character. It says more about the person making the comments than the one they are targeted at. Jackson Miller is a man who wants to serve. The voters should be able to decide if that is enough without the insults. Prince William County is better than Mr. Wiggin’s post and should demand better than that from him as a political leader in our community,” stated Davon Gray, Prince William resident.

“In these divisive and turbulent political times, whether Democrat or Republican, it’s very inappropriate for community leaders such as Harry Wiggins to malign an elected official by wrongly characterizing that person as racist. Delegate Jackson Miller, who has served his district with honor, deserves an apology,” said Don Scoggins, of Woodbridge, who in 2015 sought the Republican nomination to be the Occoquan District Supervisors candidate. 

“Prince William needs leaders who embrace civility and mutual respect. If people can’t make their case for policy change, or win a political disagreement without name-calling, maybe they shouldn’t be in politics. Racism and bigotry is real and we should call it out wherever it exists – but, inaccurately throwing around words like ‘white supremacist’ about Jackson waters down the true meaning of the word, and distracts us when racism actually occurs. Jackson Miller is a good man who has a long history of serving all residents of Prince William and Manassas, no matter their ethnicity or religion. Prince William politics must be better than this,” said D.J. Jordan, of Woodbridge, and a member of the Prince William NAACP member.

Miller is vying to become the next Prince William County Clerk of the Circuit Court, an elected position with an eight-year term. The job comes with a handsome salary of $162,740, and the task of recording marriage licenses, gun permits, land sales records, birth and death certificates, to name a few, and then maintaining them as records open to the public.

Jacqueline Smith, a Dumfries lawyer, is making her second run at the Clerk of the Court’s job, campaigning with deep democratic support from Wiggin’s committee. Smith in 2015 ran and lost by just four points to Michele McQuigg, who won a second term in office but died last month at age 69.

Voters will head to the polls April 18 to cast their votes in a special election. Smith says she wants to take politics out of the clerk’s office.

“I don’t know what inspired Mr. Wiggins recent statement about Jackson Miller and Donald Trump. I don’t know Delegate Miller personally, and I am not interested attacking his character. For me this campaign isn’t about Jackson Miller or political mudslinging, it’s about making sure that our community has an effective local government in our courthouse,” Smith told Potomac Local. “As someone who lives here and works in our legal community, I have dedicated my professional life to preserving the integrity of our courts and to the fair administration of justice.  I am running for Clerk to get politics out of the courthouse to ensure a fair, efficient and responsive court. 

And she has her supporters.

Today, we saw Democrat Ken Boddye, who is running for 51st Hosue of Delegates seat in Prince William, distance himself from Wiggins. I would not be surprised if he wasn’t the last. 

““We learned last year that accusations and name-calling does nothing but polarize people,” said Boddye. “I’ve spoken to countless folks here in Prince William County – many times at their doorsteps – and this kind of rhetoric digs up old wounds from last year. The April 18 Clerk of the Circuit Court race should be centered around the issues, not personalities or name-calling; a position like the clerk’s is supposed to be non-partisan for a reason.”

It’s not every day that Potomac Local publishes a story like this. And that’s because it’s not every day such a visible member of our community — the voice of Democrats in Prince William County, frequently speaking at Board of Supervisors and School Board meetings — takes to social media to unleash such pointed, pernicious comments that do little if anything to add to public discourse in the face in an upcoming election.

That is why this is news, and that is why we posted about it. Not everyone thinks so.

“This is by far the worst news reporting I have ever seen on Potomac Local. I hate Donald Trump and I don’t even care about Jackson Miller, but you are giving race-baiters a megaphone-type platform without any accountability. This will only encourage more name-calling like this, which will fuel racial tensions in our community even more. Lazy journalism like this is part of the race problem in America,” Tanisha Watkins commented on our post.

I’ve covered Prince William County for the better part of 10 years. I’ve lived in the area for even much longer, and my experiences with Miller have shown me he is anything but the slanderous name Wiggins gave him.

The Virginia NAACP praised Miller when he dropped a bill that would have made it a crime to identify a police officer involved in a shooting less than six months since the date of the incident. Those who opposed his bill said it would erode a community’s trust in its police department, and Miller listened.

As a member of the House Courts of Justice Committee was able to get African American Judge Rossie Alston ascended from the Prince William Circuit Court to the Virginia Court of Appeals.  Last year Miller was the only member of the Judicial Selection Subcommittee who fought for and put African American attorney Petula Metzler on the Prince William General District Court.

Miller’s support of these candidates turned judges shows that he recognizes those who work hard to improve not only themselves but also to serve their community. Service, self-betterment, and a focus on building a better future for our families who live in our community are all values that we should admire and uphold.

Our community, like our nation, is tired of the name calling and yearns for smart, substantive political discussion. People are tired of quick soundbites that tell them what to think, how to feel, and how to not thoughtfully respond, but to show a knee-jerk reaction.

In this day and age, the time for name calling is over, and two wrongs still, have never make a right.

“Not everyone who voted for Trump is a sexist or a racist. Some of them are, but most aren’t. Most people didn’t vote for Clinton, not because she’s a woman. They didn’t vote for her because she offered no palpable change whatsoever. Same old stuff. Trump represents a change. A terrifying change, but change none the less,” said political satirist Tom Walker who plays the news reporter character Jonathan Pie, in the hours after President Trump’s November 2016 election.

“Throwing insults doesn’t work anymore. The only thing that works is caring and doing something, and what we have to do is to engage in the debate. Talk to people who think differently than you, and persuade them of your argument. It’s so easy, and the left have lost the art. Stop thinking that everyone who disagrees with you is evil, or racist, or sexist, or stupid and talk to them. Persuade them otherwise, because if you don’t, I’ll tell you what you get, you get President Trump.”

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  • Tanisha Watkins

    I applaud Potomac Local for this article. This is much more fair and much more balanced. The media has a major role to play in community civil discourse….. and PL does that well with this piece.

  • Firestorm

    Unfortunately, Jaqueline Smith and other Democratic candidates will have to work twice as hard to overcome Harry Wiggins’ unfortunate remarks. But, that’s Harry and most of us know that he often speaks before thinking, sort of like the BOCS chairman who is just as bad about calling names. Corey and Harry both need to clean up their respective acts!

    • mrsevw85

      Harry Wiggins ALWAYS speaks with “foot-in-mouth disease”. Bringing Corey Stewart into the argument shows distorted logic.

  • James

    This is all a joke. Where was this outrage when Donald Trump attacked Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Women, protesters etc.? No where, that’s right. Now all of a sudden coarse language bothers them!

    Almost everyone you mention in this article is a hypocrite. Show me Jackson Miller’s outrage at Trump’s comments. Show me one Facebook or other statement by Jackson Miller condemning Trump’s remarks. Or maybe something from the county GOP chair.

    Right-wing Republican officeholders and party officials have spent years smearing there opponents, whether Democrats or moderate Republicans. Look at the false smears and lies they’ve spread online and in print about Marty Nohe, Maureen Caddigan, John Jenkins, Frank Principi, Paul Nichols, Ryan Sawyers, Ernie Porta, Lillie Jessie, Scott Jacobs, the list goes on and on. They’ve attacked everyone of them with malicious, false smears and lies. Now they’re outraged because Wiggins called someone a bigot and white supremacist on his Facebook page! What a joke. These people are all frauds and they’re using you. Jackson Miller doesn’t care what Wiggins says on his Facebook page. He’s using you as a campaign tool.

  • Lavendar

    Before people casually dismiss the Harry Wiggins comments they might want to check out Jackson Miller’s police disciplinary record. Just sayin . . . .

  • Debbie Hanssen Edenhart

    I am always at the Courthouse – Circuit Court land records, etc. In my 35 years I’ve made friends and acquaintances and I have never ever heard or seen anything of any political nature or twist. There is no “politics” at the Courthouse despite what someone says. The employees, including the Clerk, cannot practice law in that position. All employees will advise you to seek legal advice if you have a question regarding the law. Consequently, the statement about “getting politics out of the courthouse” is not valid.

    • Allen Muchnick

      Perhaps if you were not a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual Christian, your past experiences in the Clerk’s office might have been a little different.

      • Ray Wachter

        What does that even mean?

        • Allen Muchnick

          Simply that those in a dominant social group may be unaware of the discrimination and bias faced by non-conforming minorities.

          • Ray Wachter

            Ahhh, so you mean white guilt? How much time do you spend at the courthouse? Like Debbie (who is a friend of mine), I am there daily as well. And she’s right. You seem to confer a lot more to the person at the helm of the court as opposed to those who actually make the court run. And that, sir, is a pretty diverse group. And they don’t practice politics. I daresay a good lot of them probably vote in a way similar to you. Do you want to know what really enhances your experience at the courthouse? It’s simple, really. Good manners. You can be anyone you want to be, but good manners win out every single time.

          • mrsevw85

            Dittos with Ray Wachter.

          • Allen Muchnick

            No, I don’t mean “white guilt”, whatever that’s supposed to mean, and I don’t mean a natural reaction to rude behavior. Unless one is personally subject to bias and discrimination, it is easy to ignore its existence., especially when it’s only intermittent.

          • Ray Wachter

            It means people like you, sir. You know exactly what it means. How exactly are you subject to bias and discrimination? Do you frequent the court? If so, share your experiences. If you don’t or haven’t, stick to those things of which you are personally aware. Don’t project your “feelings” into it, either.

          • Allen Muchnick

            During the March 21 Clerk of the Court candidates forum [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=406r5pSbaKo ], Jacqueline Smith clearly and convincingly describes how the Clerk’s Office has disadvantaged low-income and working people by not answering the phones or returning voice messages and by requiring citizens without a lawyer to bring paper copies of their electronic court documents so the judges can see them; has intimidated LGBT individuals; and has disrespected its long-time female clerks by not considering them for promotions.

          • Ray Wachter

            Do you know WHY the phones don’t get answered? Do you know the policy? Do you know the workload of the extremely hard working women of the clerks office? Phone calls are returned within 24 hours. If the phones were answered as they came in, nothing would get done in the clerks office. They don’t have proper staffing for that. They can’t have proper staffing for that. The workload/caseload is substantial. One LGBT officer says they were “intimidated”. One. That’s hardly intimidation of individualS. Who knows what that person is referencing? Having said that, the previous clerk was certainly not known for her warmth and fuzziness. Which brings forth your last aside – if you actually went to the court, you’d know that there are only 2 male employees that actually work there. Promotions are not abundant within the office as most of the promotions are outside of this particular office and within other county offices. It is a majority female run office. Again, speak from your experience, not from what you hear from others.

  • Allen Muchnick

    This is a political tirade; it’s not news and should be clearly labeled as opinion. While Mr. Wiggins’ Facebook post was indiscreet and lacked any evidence for his allegation, such Facebook drivel did not merit the first Potomac Local story, much less this second one.

    It seems that Mr. Kaiser has intentionally blown (or “trumped”) this matter up in an effort to give favorable news coverage (“Mr. Miller is not a racist”, etc.) and valuable political ammunition to one candidate while smearing the other by association. The person most damaged by this sorry episode is Mr. Kaiser’s reputation for fair and objective journalism.

    • mrsevw85

      Delegate Jackson Miller has honorably served his 50th district. He works HARD as majority whip at General Assembly.

      Thank you, Mr Kiser, for shining the spotlight on the cockroach, Harry Wiggins. County electors need to know the kind of people who are supporting Ms. Smith.

    • Thank you for calling us on marking this post Opinion vs. News. This post should have been marked Opinion when it was published. It now carries an Opinion brand at the top.

      • Allen Muchnick

        Thank You!

  • Allen Muchnick

    This article can be summed up in two words: Fake News.

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