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09 February 2012

Democratic Party Treasurer Caught in the Middle of Racial Rift Over Athens Wal-Mart

Meet Russell Edwards.

He's a failed candidate for Congress. He's Treasurer of the Georgia Democratic Party. He's staunchly opposed to the construction of a Wal-Mart in downtown Athens.

Edwards launched a website,, to oppose Wal-Mart. He's organized petition drives against the Athens Wal-Mart. Edwards' efforts against the Athens Wal-Mart even received the attention of national liberal blog ThinkProgress. Edwards' Wal-Mart opposition now has him at odds with the Democratic Party's most loyal supporters -- blacks.

More than 100 people packed Athens City Hall Tuesday night to support or oppose a proposed Walmart near downtown.

The crowd at the Athens-Clarke Commission meeting was evenly split between mostly black supporters of Selig Enterprises’ Oconee Street mixed-use development and mostly white opponents. It was the first time Athens’ African-American community has publicly weighed in on the project.

The local NAACP voted this month to support the development, Hope Iglehart told commissioners.

“Clarke County is facing a nearly 40 percent poverty rate,” she said. “We feel the Selig development will combat that rate by providing jobs.”

Aued, Blake (2012-2-7). African-American leaders turn out to support Walmart. Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved on 2012-2-9.

Georgia Democratic Party Treasurer Russell Edwards faces a dilemma.

Does he continue to oppose Wal-Mart? Does he continue to oppose jobs that his black constituency desperately need and want? Only time will tell.

The plot, as they say, thickens.