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A Southern California mayor is standing by a mailer that labels a city council hopeful a "gang candidate" who wants to make the city of Lancaster a "magnet for street gangs."
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said he stands by the mailer that he funded to support two council incumbents in next month's election in the city about 70 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, according to a report in the Antelope Valley Press.
The mailer criticizes candidate Johnathon Ervin for helping organize a 2012 demonstration after the shooting of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer. It says local sheriff's deputies were labeled "murderers and thugs" at the demonstration and also claims that if elected to the council, Ervin would pass on gang-fighting information to friends.
Parris told the Antelope Valley Press that he felt Ervin endorsed anti-police sentiment at the rally by failing to denounce or apologize for remarks made by some who attended.
Ervin said Parris misconstrued the peaceful "Hoodie March" and said he worked with the Sheriff's Department to coordinate the route, the Associated Press reported. Former Mayor Henry Hearns attended and brought well wishes from Parris, he added.
Ervin, 35, an Air Force veteran, said Thursday on his Facebook page that he has never been involved in gangs.
"Mayor R. Rex Parris has attacked me by labeling me the "Gang Candidate," the March 19 post said. "Flat-Out Lie and full of hate. The truth is, I'm an Iraq War Veteran still serving as a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force Reserves and work as an aerospace engineer at Plant 42. The Mayor is playing dirty politics. Lancaster needs to focus on the real issues and get back to the basics of serving our residents."
Ervin, who is black, also said he hoped there was no racial animosity behind the mailer, according to the Antelope Valley Press. He just heard about the mailer this week.
It features a picture of Ervin, circled in red, at the Martin demonstration. An arrow points out Martin as "directing anti-sheriff protest." The "gang candidate" reference is included at the bottom of a letter from Parris.
"Don't let street gangs get a foothold at City Hall," the letter reads. "Vote against gang candidate Johathon Ervin."
The letter warns, one City Council candidate "wants to turn back the clock and make Lancaster a magnet for street gangs." The mailer urges a vote against Ervin and supports incumbents Ron Smith and Vice-Mayor Marvin Crist.