A South Carolina sheriff’s candidate said he wore blackface to a police Halloween party about 10 years ago, and he shared a photo of himself at the party in a campaign video this week.
Craig Stivender is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Colleton County sheriff next year. In the video, he describes himself as a Colleton County native and longtime law enforcement officer in the mainly rural area west of Charleston.
“About 10 years ago as a young police officer, I attended a law enforcement Halloween party dressed as ruthless drug kingpin ‘Big Meech’ Flenory,” he said in the video.
“I did it to disparage a criminal whose actions hurt our community and country. That was a different time. Today we understand that type of costume is troubling to many. To those who may be upset, I understand your disappointment,” Stivender said.
Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory was convicted in 2008 for his role in a massive drug-trafficking and money-laundering operation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Flenory was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in the Black Mafia Family, which federal investigators described as a drug smuggling ring disguised as a Detroit-based record label.
In the campaign video, Stivender said he wanted to share some things with voters at the start of his campaign — “some things politicians would try to hide, things my opponents may try to use to tarnish my integrity.”
He said those things include his divorce and second marriage, being reprimanded as a police officer for losing his temper and getting into fender-benders that were his fault.
In the video, he ends the list by sharing the undated photograph of him in blackface.
The current sheriff has already drawn some criticism as he prepares to run for a third term.
Sheriff R.A. Strickland emailed his staff in August reminding them that South Carolina is an “at will” state for employment, according to WCIV.
“If a potential candidate contacts you, my advice to you would be not get involved,” Strickland told employees, according to WCIV. “Read between the lines and I ask that you remain loyal and support me as a leader as well as a Sheriff.”