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10 November 2014

State Representative Dexter Sharper Apologizes for Inflammatory Get Out to Vote Message

(State Rep. Dexter Sharper (D - Valdosta) says it was a mistake to imply Governor Nathan Deal and U.S. Senator-elect David Perdue would take away Section 8, EBT, or CAPS benefits. Image courtesy Georgia House of Representatives)
Days before the 2014 General Election, state Representative Dexter Sharper (D - Valdosta) took to Facebook and urged people to get out and vote.

Rep. Sharper's message was quite blunt.

"Listen! If you are on Section 8, EBT, or CAPS," Sharper (pictured right) wrote in a Facebook post, "You need to get out to vote ASAP. Your benefits are at risk if Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are not elected!"

Sharper's post was roundly criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Eventually the post was taken down, but the damage was done. Now, Rep. Sharper is trying to undo some of that damage.

In an open letter sent to Georgia Unfiltered, Rep. Sharper apologized and said his get out the vote message was a mistake.

"In an attempt to excite voters to turn out, I did something I regret today," Sharper writes. "I used the threat that if people did not get out and vote for Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, their Section 8, EBT or CAPS benefits would be in jeopardy. That threat should not have been an issue in this and any other election. It was a mistake and I am sorry.

"I feel as a Man that if you make a mistake acknowledge your mistake," Sharper concluded.

The full text of state Representative Dexter Sharper's apology can be read below:

An open letter to all of my friends in Georgia State House District 177 from Representative Dexter Sharper

I am honored to have served as your state representative the past two years and I look forward to serving you into the future.

I would like to share with you a behind the scenes look at what occurs during an election year. I was happy when I learned that I would not be opposed during the primary or general elections. I took it as a signal that the people of the district were pleased with my actions. Regardless of my own political circumstances I learned quickly that I was expected to play a much larger role in the elections.

As the only Democrat Legislator in the area, I have been visited by candidates seeking state wide office, officials from the National Democrat Party, even a former first lady. All of them explaining that my job was to turn out the vote! Like many of you, I have seen letters to voters threatening that their performance would be really looked at after the election and they would be asked to explain their choice to vote or not to to vote. As a legislator, that demand is even more powerful when you realize that if you fail, then your ability to get anything done for your constituents could be affected.

When early voting began, I was hoping that the turnout would be what was expected by everyone. As time passed though I received demands for better turnout. It was my job to get everyone to vote no matter what. In an attempt to excite voters to turn out I did something I regret today. I used the threat that if people did not get out and vote for Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter that their Section 8, EBT or CAPS benefits would be in jeopardy. That threat should not have been an issue in this and any other election. It was a mistake and I am sorry.

We should not compare voting for someone to keeping important, but temporary programs. I should not have implied that Governor Deal or David Perdue would have taken away those programs. That is not how we should conduct political campaigns.

I believe that our own community is where we can find help and success. I want to offer the understanding that the only way we can help others is to be strong ourselves. I wish for people to understand that if we are financially independent then we can each help our neighbors when they need help the most. I want all of our children to grow up and not be dependent on anyone or any government. I want them to depend on their own drive and their own abilities. I want our kids to understand that we should always prepare ourselves for when opportunities are in front of them through education and hard work.

I have seen that the people I serve with in Atlanta (Democrat and Republican) care about the people they serve. I understand the need for these programs and want to make sure they are available when someone needs them. However, I do not want them to become a way of life. I have talked about programs to escape poverty like education, health care and mentorships programs. Not programs that keep us in bondage and discourage us from starting our own businesses. Not programs that demand we accept a lower standard of living with no hope for tomorrow.

It is my goal to help my friends needing these services to become free of them as soon as they are able. It is my job to return to Atlanta and do everything I can to help ALL of my constituents succeed in Valdosta. I make the pledge that I will not become a victim of the political machine again. I will work with anyone regardless of any differences to help us all succeed.

I feel as a Man that if you make a mistake acknowledge your mistake. Thank you again for allowing me to serve EVERYONE in district 177.

Dexter Sharper
GA State Legislator
District 177
Valdosta, GA

State Representative