Shelby County election heats up with controversial ad

Battle over controversial political ad

(WMC-TV) – Democratic Party leaders are denouncing a campaign ad mailed out by the Republican candidate for Shelby County General Sessions Court.

They say the ad is racist and inappropriate.

But the candidate says it is not racist, and he claims he stated the truth.

People offended by the ad say it lumps a man of integrity in with two men who had troubled political careers, who happen to be African-American.

Rout says he only disseminated historical data.

"It's inaccurate, it's divisive, and really, it has no place in today's conversation," said Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Van Turner.

Turner is talking about a flyer sent out by Republican Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk candidate Rick Rout.

It shows newspaper clippings about former clerk and Senator John Ford's bribery conviction, as well as former clerk Otis Jackson's indictment.

It says, "They've been caught with their hands in the cookie jar over and over."

A Germantown Democrat, who happens to be white, was so offended, he blasted the email to his friends demanding voters denounce Rout for his "blatant racist appeal."

Rout's opponent, Interim Court Clerk Ed Stanton would not respond to the racial finger-pointing.

"Keeping it on a professional level and a positive level. Moving forward, staying focused," Stanton said.

Rout was unavailable on camera, but said in a statement, "For someone to say that stating the facts is racist, is absurd."

Turner countered that the words "they've" and "their" group Stanton in with negativity.

"He's been in office a number of years. He has not had one ethical issue ever. He's a minister, a father, a family man," said Turner of Stanton.

Rout went on to say, "It is a fact that former General Sessions Court Clerk John Ford violated the public trust by fathering a child with one of his clerk employees and subsequently was later indicted for bribery as a Tennessee State Senator. It is also a fact that our most recently elected General Sessions Court Clerk, Otis Jackson, has been indicted and removed from office for 'official misconduct'."

Stanton said "the voters will see through the negative campaign."

Rout said, "If that's not being caught with your "hand in the cookie jar", I don't know what else to call it."

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.