Tom Worthan is the chairman of the Douglas County, Georgia, Commission, and has been for three terms, or 12 years. He's running for re-election, but recent comments secretly recorded by a constituent may put his odds for a fourth term in jeopardy.
Worthan was at a festival outside the county courthouse two weeks ago when a man named Mark Dodd approached him to chat about his two opponents, Tim Pounds and Romona Jackson-Jones, who are both black. Dodd surreptitiously recorded Worthan's remarks, which proved less than flattering for the incumbent chairman:
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that Worthan asserted that a government run by black people would “bankrupt you" and that if Pounds was elected, “he would put a bunch of blacks in leadership positions.”
“I’d be afraid he’d put his black brothers in positions that maybe they’re not qualified to be in," he later added.
Dodd told the AJC that he was motivated to clandestinely record the county commissioner because he'd heard Worthan making racist comments in the past.
“I want black people to have the same opportunities that white people have. I’m tired of seeing black people arrested, beaten and killed for no reason," Dodd, who is white and has two mixed-race children, told the paper. "If white people are not going to stand up for what they believe is right, if we are not going to stand up for the African-American community, we’re just as bad as the people doing it.”
Worthan apologized after the recording was made public.
“I spoke as a politician, trying to say what I needed to say to get a vote,” Worthan told Fox Atlanta. “And that’s unfortunate. And I certainly apologize for doing that.”
Georgia House Rep. William K. Boddie Jr., who is black and whose district represents part of Douglas County, expressed disappointment in Worthan, and wrote in a letter that he wanted Worthan to resign immediately.
Boddie later signed an open letter written by a coalition of elected Douglas County officials calling for Worthan's resignation.
"If Chairman Worthan is truly apologetic and loves Douglas County, he will step down from his elected position because that is the only way to indicate that he truly recognizes the gravity of his words and actions," they wrote. "A true patriot and leader would rather end his time in office than be a distraction to the economic growth, prosperity, and unity of the County.”
Worthan's office did not immediately return a request for further comment Friday.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.