Kingston Republicans have severed ties with a county legislature candidate who criticized a mural depicting Native Americans for sending a potentially divisive “ethnic message,” rather than celebrating Kingston’s “original heritage.”
Last week, Jean Jacobs, Republican candidate for the District 6 legislative seat in the City of Kingston, said she was offended by depictions of Native Americans on a mural put up at the YMCA as part of the O+ Festival.
“I think it divides the community,” said Jacobs. “It sends an ethnic message. Why did [the artist] come up with the idea — on the YMCA — to paint Indians. What does that signify?”
Jacobs also critiqued the artist’s depiction of the Native Americans as too “dark.”
“It was supposed to be Indian, but it didn’t look Indian,” said Jacobs. “Maybe a black Indian.”
Fallout from Jacobs’ comments was swift, and overwhelmingly negative. As hundreds of comments flooded social media calling the legislative candidates remarks racist, members of the City of Kingston Republican Committee’s campaign committee scrambled to contain the damage.
By Wednesday morning, the committee had voted to drop all support for Jacobs in the run-up to next month’s election. Campaign Committee Chairman Jerry Brown said that the committee would withhold financial support and members would not make phone calls or do door-to-door campaigning on Jacobs’ behalf. Brown added that Jacobs would not be invited to committee strategy sessions or other events.
“We decided to separate ourselves from her completely. We decided that would be the best thing for ourselves and our candidates,” said Brown. “Her views are her own and have nothing to do with us.”
The rebuke from party leaders could bring an end to Jacobs’ long tenure on the fringes of the city’s political scene. In the early 2000s, Jacobs served as president of the Kingston Board of Education, where she led a controversial effort to dismiss a newly hired school superintendent. Later she served as head of the Kingston Republican Committee, mounted unsuccessful runs for Common Council and the GOP nomination for mayor and served as a library trustee.
Jacobs, meanwhile, has not backed off of her original comments. Shortly after the story describing her remarks went online on Tuesday, Jacobs shared it on her campaign Facebook page under the title “Read my thoughts on the O+ festival.” The post remained up past midnight Tuesday before being taken down sometime overnight. In a Facebook message to a reporter late Tuesday night, Jacobs requested that editors remove certain comments on Ulster Publishing’s website and social media pages, but made no other comment about the piece.
On Wednesday morning, Mayor Steve Noble called Jacobs statements “concerning.”
“I think the reason Kingston is doing so well is because of our diversity,” said Noble. “I think the O+ Festival and the murals represent the best of what the city is — safe, welcoming and inclusive.”