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We read your recent letter critical of your Democratic opponent, incumbent Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield. As friends who have known Jean for many years, we write to set the record straight with respect to her character, integrity and residence.
Your background reveals that you are a teacher, husband, father and a believer in Almighty God. From all appearances, you are a fine young man who has been influenced by the Republican Party to oppose a longstanding, effective legislator; one who has deep roots in Wilson County. The Republican Party declined to nominate a Republican candidate to oppose Farmer-Butterfield. You and the Republican chairman have both acknowledged that the Republican Party recruited you to do what they are unwilling to do.
In The Wilson Times, you called it “comical” for Rep. Farmer-Butterfield to have a second residence. You mentioned that Jean is not seen at Walmart or Harris Teeter. We suppose some in Wilson could say they have never met you or heard of you prior to this campaign. The fact of the matter is that you have lived in Wilson for four years; your home is in West Wilson (your cellphone area code is 708) and Farmer-Butterfield’s home is in eastern Wilson County. You should be ashamed to suggest that because a person doesn’t frequent the places you frequent that a conclusion can be made they live in the county.
Perhaps you don’t know the facts about your opponent. We will share some of those with you so that you will see that your opponent has devoted her life to her faith, family and community.
When Jean Farmer was born, there were no public schools for African-American children in rural Wilson County. The Wilson County Board of Education didn’t want to provide educational opportunities for black children. The only available education consisted of Rosenwald Schools financed by a wealthy white man named Julius Rosenwald.
Jean’s parents were some of the best human beings you would ever want to meet. They produced eight children and wanted the very best education for their children. Realizing there were no public schools in rural Wilson County, they joined with another family member who also had eight children (Mark Sharpe) and used the federal courts to force Wilson County to build public schools for African-American children. That’s when Speight and Springfield high schools were constructed. This enabled the Farmer and Sharpe children and thousands of black children to receive a high school education.
After Jean Farmer graduated from high school, she received her college degree and master’s degree and returned to her beloved Wilson County. She was a wife, mother and community leader long before you were born.
Throughout her adult life, Jean Farmer-Butterfield has worked a full-time job in Raleigh and serves as senior director of a major statewide nonprofit. Prior to that assignment, she was developmental disabilities coordinator and manager with the Wilson-Greene Mental Health Center.
What you and your supporters must know is that Rep. Farmer-Butterfield continues to work a full-time job in Raleigh. Her duties as a state representative are part-time but demanding. Because of her very demanding schedule, Jean finds herself driving to Gardners Township late at night, which is unsettling to her family.
Consequently, Jean decided to invest in real estate some 20 minutes from her two jobs and overnight during the week at that location. It is commonly known in the legislative community that many legislators own and occupy second homes for their convenience and safety. Why would you make a political issue out of the decision of this great woman to invest in real estate and reside near her workplace during the week?
You suggest that Rep. Farmer-Butterfield lives in a “high tower.” What do you mean when you make that statement? The price that Jean paid for her second home should be of no concern to you. She deserves a nice home after working so hard for more than 40 years. She makes a good salary and has preserved her resources to purchase real estate or any other asset she desires. That’s the American dream.
You must know that not only has your opponent been a full-time mental health professional and state representative. She was the primary caregiver for her wonderful parents until their recent deaths. Perhaps you have never experienced a demanding schedule of commuting 60 miles to work important jobs, and returning home to care for two aged parents.
Please know that your political campaign has taken an unfortunate turn by recklessly denigrating the character and integrity of one who has given (and continues to give) so much to her family and community. You should campaign on the issues that face the hardworking people of Wilson County.
Where are you on the issues? Do you support the direction that Donald Trump and the Republicans are taking our country? Do you support or oppose the $1.8 trillion tax cut that Republicans gave to the rich and super-rich while claiming that the $380 per year tax cut to $60,000 wage earners justifies the enormous increase in the national debt? Do you care that thousands of Wilson County residents do not have health insurance and that insurance premiums are escalating every day under the Republican administration?
We call on you, Mr. Fontenot, to campaign on the issues and refrain from carelessly and recklessly denigrating the character and reputation of one who has used her legislative position to improve the quality of life for all Wilson County residents. Please don’t embarrass your wonderful family and allow your children to see their father defaming a woman of enormous character and integrity.
Matyre L. Knight
Ethel T. Leach
Dalphine Lucas Perry
Rev. Thera Uzzell
E. Ray Bynum