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Friday, October 4, 2013

Councilman Willis lashes out at challenger for 'blatant hypocrisy' in campaign attacks

There's roughly one month left until voters cast ballots in the 2013 city elections and most of the races have stayed quiet and cordial.

The one exception: The rumble over the Atlanta City Council's Post 3 At-Large seat between incumbent H. Lamar Willis and Andre Dickens, the lone challenger for the citywide seat.

Willis today called out Dickens, whose campaign has pointed at the incumbent's ethical missteps, for "blatant hypocrisy." Last month, Dickens launched an attack website, lamarwillisshakedowns.com, which accuses the lawyer of starting a fake charity, lying to high school students about scholarships, and stealing money from a child he represented in a personal injury claim. The site also features a photoshopped image of the councilman, who's holding a young boy upside down and shaking pennies, dimes, and nickels from his shorts.

At the time, Willis told CL he intended to stay above the fray and not stoop to the level of his opponent's attacks. But in a statement released today, the councilman criticized the Underwood Hills resident and Georgia Tech staffer, whom he says has seen his fair share of financial struggles. Here's an excerpt:

It is only because my opponent continues his attacks that I am forced to state the real difference between the two of us: hypocrisy and experience. My opponent has plenty of the first but none of the latter.

While he is throwing rocks, he, too, has had major financial issues, including a failed business, bankruptcy and years of tax liens. Knowing the challenges that I and so many others have faced in recent years, I won't pass judgment on his financial problems.

But his blatant hypocrisy of focusing on my challenges but not revealing his own says a lot about who he is. And it shows the difference between the two of us: I own up to my issues, and he doesn't. I have a record of ably representing the citizens of the City of Atlanta, and he has no track record at all.

Dickens spokeswoman Lalohni Campbell sent CL the following statement in response to Willis' remarks:

For nearly a decade I owned a successful furniture business until the housing market crashed. Unlike my opponent, I did not prey on high schoolers and steal money from children to solve my problems. I never started a fake charity and lied to high school students about it, like my opponent did. I never shook down airport contractors in violation of the city's ethics laws, like my opponent did. I never stole money from a child who was an accident victim, like my opponent did. Rather than stealing from others to cover up my problems, I faced them head on. There are great differences [between] me and my opponent. We think letting voters know that he is the kind of man who would steal from children and create fake charities means that he would do practically anything to stay in office.

We've reached out to Willis' staff to see if they have more details about the somewhat vague accusations he's made. If we hear back, we'll post an update. But either way, this race is getting heated fast.

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