Memphis voters respond to mayoral candidate’s social media controversy

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Early voting is underway in Shelby County, and voters are keeping a close eye on the Memphis mayoral candidates as they cast their ballots.

One of those candidates, Tami Sawyer, is addressing old tweets that resurfaced last week, and that may influence some voters’ decisions.

Sawyer called old tweets that referenced drunk driving, white children and outing a lesbian teacher a distraction, and she refuses to speak to WREG but did post a video on her Facebook page the first day of early voting.

“The reason they want you distracted,” Sawyer said. “The reason they want you looking at things in my background that they want you to ask question about that have nothing to do with this race. The reason for that is they don’t want you to get upset that when you go vote you have to drive past blight and streets that haven’t been paved.”

Early voters WREG spoke to said it’s important to them to have a complete picture of the candidates.

“I do not think that is a distraction,” Rebecca Tuttle said. “I think it is appropriate to learn as much about all the candidates as we can.”

“Focus on other things,” Branden Boyer said. “People change, and they do make mistakes in their history. I’m a prime example, but it’s just a cloud cover for other stuff.”

“I always tell my children and grandchildren to watch what you put on social media because it will eventually catch up with you,” Elsie Lewis Bailey said. “It’s unfortunate, and I hope it doesn’t distract those who want to vote for her.”

Sawyer did apologize for the tweets, saying she has evolved, but some voters are concerned with how they could impact her leadership.

“I think people can be evolved, and she might be apologetic, buy my thing is, one that sticks out is, we all need the police,” Shantel Lawrence said. “They serve the city and are very vital. That one stuck with me.”

WREG caught up with incumbent Mayor Jim Strickland earlier Monday and asked him about the controversy.

“I focus on our results,” Strickland said. “This whole campaign to me has been focused on our results over other’s rhetoric.”

WREG reached out to Sawyer several times, but we haven’t heard back.

Early voting in Shelby County ends Sept. 28. Election day is Oct. 3.

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