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Photos ignite tension in District 9 congressional race

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – An Arizona congressional campaign has turned into a war of words over race.

Republican District 9 congressional candidate Vernon Parker, who is African-American, is upset about a picture that appears on mailers that were sent out in the district.

“It’s a photograph that makes me appear five shades darker,” he said. “My eyes are completely five shades whiter and my teeth are also.”

Parker is calling on his Democratic opponent, Kyrsten Sinema, to denounce the pictures.

Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a Valley civil rights leader, claimed that the pictures that were designed, distributed and authorized by the Arizona Democratic Party are racist.

“The most offensive race-targeting campaign materials that Black Arizonans have had to deal with in decades,” he said in a press release, adding that the pictures make Parker look like “a villainous field negro cut-out from some Jim Crow era minstrel-show poster.”

Parker said he was disappointed that the Democratic party put out the flier.

“It just saddens me that this race has come down to that, and that the Democratic party would be behind something like that,” he said.

There’s no indication from Sinema that she will denounce the photos. Her campaign manager, Rodd McLeod, claimed that the pictures came from Parker’s own Facebook page.

Frank Camacho with the Arizona Democratic Party said the only thing that the party did to the pictures was change them from color to black-and-white, something that’s very common in campaign practices, especially mailers.

“If you take ten mailers, your going to find probably half, at least, that have black-and-white photos,” he said.

Camacho claimed Parker is trying to bring race into the campaign as an issue because he lacks substance on the issues and McLeod agreed. He said Parker doesn’t have a lot of credibility, and the accusations are a sign of desperation.

“I think that he recognizes that the positions he’s taken are so out of step with the priorities and values of the voters of this district, including that he’s talking about getting rid of the Department of Education,” said McLeod.

Parker, on the other hand, said all he wants to do is talk about the issues.

“People want to work,” he said. “They want to provide for their families. I’m not going to let the pettiness of the Democratic party get in the way of me talking about how we’re going to get the middle class back to work.”