Flyer attacks candidate’s gender identity days before Democratic runoff for Alabama House seat

By: - October 20, 2023 3:14 pm
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A roll of “I voted” circular stickers. (Getty)

A Democratic candidate for the Alabama House of Representatives has been attacked by a flyer targeting her gender identity, days before a runoff for the party nomination.

The flyer, which does not have identifying information on it, said Sylvia Swayne, seeking the Democratic nomination in House District 55 in Birmingham, “was born to be a white male and lives as a white woman/transgender.”

Swayne, who is transgender, called the attack a distraction in an interview on Friday. Travis Hendrix, her opponent in Tuesday’s runoff election, denounced the flyer in a statement on Thursday, saying it “only continues to perpetuate oppression and marginalization of those I care about and support.”

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“My respect for, and commitment to, the LGBTQ+ community has never wavered. I’m deeply saddened by the personal attack of my opponent Sylvia Swayne,” the statement said.

Travis Hendrix, Sylvia Swayne seek Democratic nod in Birmingham-area House seat

Swayne said that they are “extending the Hendrix campaign grace” and had not seen any evidence that the flyer came from his campaign. The attacks on her gender, she said, were a way to distract voters from the issues.

“I think the best way to show that your support for the LGBT community has never wavered is to focus on the issues and to be in conversation with your opponent,” Swayne said. “I would hope that as a gesture of that support for our community, that he would be willing to have a debate in the last few days of the election.”

The two candidates have not participated in a debate since before the Democratic primary last month, when there were seven candidates in the race.

Dee Reed, a spokesperson for the Hendrix campaign, said in a phone interview Thursday that they are “in no way” affiliated with the “disgusting” flier.

“Travis has always been an ally,” Reed said. “He’s always advocating for everyone across the district regardless of background, sexual orientation, socio-economic status. That’s always been something that he has stood on.”

The flyer also includes a partial Advocate article from September, with “transgender candidate” highlighted in yellow.

The flyer does not say who paid for or authorized it. Federal Elections Commission rules state that communication “authorized by the candidate or campaign but paid for by a political action committee, a party committee or another person, the communication must identify the person who paid for it and state that it was authorized by the candidate or campaign.”

At least one resident in the district’s West End confirmed receiving the flyer. Another resident said she also received the flier but declined to give a statement.

Shaun Oviatt, who reported the flyer to the Swayne campaign on Facebook, said that when she opened the door, she found two flyers on her doorstep but no one present. It upset her, she said, to see that kind of negativity coming during a Democratic race.

“I’m really stressed about all the stuff that Republicans are doing, so when I see something like that I think, well, he’s not really a Democrat. That’s not somebody I would vote for,” she said.

The runoff election is on Tuesday. No Republican entered the race, and the winner of the Tuesday election is almost certain to be the next representative from the district, which includes Birmingham and Fairfield.

Jemma Stephenson contributed to this report.

(Courtesy of Shaun Oviatt)

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Alander Rocha
Alander Rocha

Alander Rocha is a journalist based in Montgomery, and he reports on government, policy and healthcare. He previously worked for KFF Health News and the Red & Black, Georgia's student newspaper. He is a Tulane and Georgia alumnus with a two-year stint in the U.S. Peace Corps.

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