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Race Takes Center Stage in Peters-Clarke Primary Race Takes Center Stage in Peters-Clarke Primary

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Politics

Race Takes Center Stage in Peters-Clarke Primary

July 30, 2012
In the middle of June, Smiley sent the information to several Michigan political pundits and reporters, who declined to pick up the story. Over a week later, Clarke announced he was skipping all upcoming debates; the Detroit Free Press reported that radio host Mildred Gaddis said on her show earlier in the week that a robocall questioning Clarke's ethnicity had gone out. Smiley denied being behind any robocalls and questioned whether any actually went out. So did Lawrence. "I've never heard them; I've never seen them. I don't know of anyone who's heard them or seen them," Lawrence said. "It's incumbent on (Clarke) to produce the emails and the robocalls." Former state Rep. Mary Waters, meanwhile, has suggested that Clarke has lied to voters about his ethnicity to get elected. Meanwhile, Peters has studiously avoided the issue, a dangerous one in an area divided by race for so long. But it appears to be frustrating the two-term representative the longer it hangs around -- and Clarke has obliquely, persistently kept it in the spotlight. At a ceremony for a new Detroit patent office July 13, Clarke said he hoped the opening of the Elijah J. McCoy office -- named for an African-American inventor from Michigan -- will end the "racist overtones" troubling the area, according to a report from the Detroit News. Peters, who sat next to Clarke at the event, expressed frustration that race continues to be an issue. "Hansen is making very serious charges and yet he's not mentioning any names, and he's not providing any evidence," Peters told the newspaper. "To me it is absolutely irresponsible." Clarke has continued to speak about the accusations -- and the unnamed forces making them. "People are desperate," Clarke said. "They are trying to win an election, they need to split the black vote so they're using the old tactics of the slavemaster to pit black people against each other. They are the tactics of colonial India, and that's why my dad left there." Yet Clarke also disavows the focus the primary has taken. "I feel like I'm perpetuating something I don't want to perpetuate... even though politically it backfired on the opposition," Clarke said in an interview three days before the patent office opening. Most recently, Clarke showed up unannounced at a debate he had previously declined to attend, where he sat in the audience and later challenged an "unamused" Peters to a one-on-one showdown. There are only eight days left until the August 7 primary, but surely that's plenty of time for more of the theatrics and fireworks typifying this race, and other member-against-member primaries, so far this year.
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