WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Democratic State House candidate’s recent comment has some questioning the meaning behind it. After he was asked how he would ensure African-Americans feel a part of the community, he said he is a member of the African-American community.
“For the first couple of days I was emotional. I was angry about it. Now I’m more focused than ever to ensure that people understand that it’s time to change the tone and do things to bring people together,” Gary Shipman said.
Gary Shipman is a Democrat running for State House District 20 in New Hanover County. At a recent forum he was recorded saying he is a member of the African-American community, a statement that has stirred up some controversy.
“My comments were not intended to reflect a belief on my part that there are no differences, because indeed there are. In my world there haven’t been because I’ve tried to treat people the same,” Shipman said.
Shipman said even though he has received both negative and positive comments, he can see how it could have been misconstrued.
“The haters have made themselves known to me, but given that is not how I’ve lived my professional career, not lived my personal life. I don’t focus on the haters, I focus on the people who I’ve been proud to represent,” Shipman said.
New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said he was the one who posed the question that led to shipman’s response.
“For me he answered the question perfectly, that so many candidates come into the African-American community and you only see them once every three, four years when their running for office and then you don’t see folks anymore until the next election cycle,” Barfield said.
Barfield said if people had been at the forum and listened from start to finish they would understand Shipman’s intent was positive. Shipman said he wishes he could have provided more context, but will continue to provide any clarification if needed.
WWAY reached out to Shipman’s two opponents in next month’s Democratic primary. John Bauer said he has no comment.
Leslie Cohen said she also has no comment. She hopes people understand the full context of the question and responses, but wants to focus on the issues.