Candidate Criticized For Billboards In Black Neighborhoods Featuring His Interracial Family

Alva James-Johnson, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, October 4, 2006

In predominantly black neighborhoods where Nick Sakhnovsky must sell his candidacy, the signs showing him standing next to his son are sure to attract attention.

Sakhnovsky is white. His son is black.

As the underdog in the race for state representative in District 93, Sakhnovsky hopes his focus on diversity will translate into votes among all races.

“I basically have a unique ability to bring different perspectives to the table in Tallahassee,” he said. “I live this kind of diversity every single day.”

On Tuesday, one of Sakhnovsky’s 14-by-48-foot billboards went up near West Broward Boulevard at Interstate 95. The billboards feature the ubiquitous picture of Sakhnovsky and his adopted son, James, 9, standing next to a gold and white logo with a dark hand and a white hand on the verge of a handshake. “For all of us! Elect James’ Dad,” the ads say.

But some residents who have viewed Sakhnovsky’s ads accuse him of exploiting James to win in a district where blacks are in the majority.

“I think he’s using that image for political posturing in a racially affected district,” said Jim Nance, 31, of Tarpon River, a predominantly white neighborhood in the district.

Sakhnovsky, whose wife Alice is black, is unapologetic.

He has made diversity the theme of his campaign, emphasizing his interracial family at every turn, and claims that he is in better position to represent the entire district because of his appreciation for diversity.

“It’s quite normal for a candidate to include his family in his literature,” he said. “My campaign theme is revolving around James and the future of him and his peers. I want Florida to be a better place for them … I have no regrets about that.”

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Sakhnovsky has raised $7,000 and taken out $27,000 in personal loans to run in a district that has elected only black representatives since 1992.

That’s why it’s important for him to get his message out. He said two additional billboards featuring him and his son would be installed today where Martin Luther King Boulevard intersects with Sunrise and Broward boulevards.

The candidate continues the theme with blue, gold and white fliers that James hands out at neighborhood association meetings. Some are accented with words like: Unity, Diversity and Equality.

Sakhnovsky even registered himself as Nick “James’ Dad” Sakhnovsky with the Florida Division of Elections. He said he and his son joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recently, but it has nothing to do with his campaign.

Thurston said he has no problems with Sakhnovsky featuring his family in his campaign literature, but he doesn’t consider race an issue in the election.

“I think this is something the candidate is trying to make an issue of,” Thurston said. “I intend to represent the entire district.”

District 93 is located in central Broward County, and includes portions of Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Lauderdale Lakes, Wilton Manors, Davie and unincorporated areas.

Black residents account for 58 percent of the population, according to statistics from the Florida House of Representatives. But the district, which is 31 percent white and 9 percent Hispanic, remains demographically diverse. Neighborhoods range from predominantly black Dorsey River Bend, a blighted neighborhood in northwest Fort Lauderdale, to predominantly white Tarpon River, where homes typically sell for $350,000 or more.

As of July 14, the voters in District 93 were 40.92 percent white, 47.72 percent black, 4.65 percent Hispanic, according to the Broward Election’s Supervisor’s Office.

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