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A man told her: ‘I will never vote for you because you’re black’

Germaine J. Kornegay is the first black city council member for Sedro-Wolley, a small town north of Seattle. Although she supported Barack Obama in 2008, she now supports Hillary Clinton.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter
Germaine J. Kornegay is the first black city council member for Sedro-Wolley, a small town north of Seattle. She supported Barack Obama in 2008; she now supports Hillary Clinton.

Germaine J. Kornegay is the only black city council member for Sedro-Woolley, a tiny timber town about an hour north of Seattle.

When she first ran for office, she campaigned door-to-door. "I was invited in for soup, for dinner, for tea, ask questions," Kornegay said.

Except for one time, when a man stepped out onto his porch and stood about four inches from her face.

“I watched his wife looking out of the window, and the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘I will never vote for you because you're black,’” Kornegay recalled.

“That's the first thing he said to me. I just said to myself that I'm really going to learn something from this man. I'm going to sit here and listen. And I'm going to learn from it, and then I'm going to use it to motivate myself to win this election.”

The man went on for 10 minutes about how African-Americans can never do anything good.

“He even finished off by saying, ‘I wish you'd go back where you came from,’” she said.

She thought, “I would love to go to Africa. But I'd love a round trip ticket, too.”

As the man talked, he admitted to her that he hated being a bigot.

He hated that about himself. And I thought that it was extremely telling that he was being so honest, and I much prefer someone being honest with me than someone that's doing it behind my back. And I learned a lot from him actually.”

She and this man now have mutual friends. Those friends have told her that he appreciated her listening to him.

“And that he was really embarrassed,” she said. “That's kind of the way you change people's minds is you have to let them get to know you. You can't run away from it.”

When Kornegay was running for office, she believed she would be the first woman on the council in a long time. She didn’t realize she would be the first person of color ever on the council.

When the election results came in on election night, she burst into tears.

I was standing next to another council member. And I just cried right into his shoulder,” she said. “I had my daughter with me, which was even more amazing.”

With the exception of the man on the porch, Kornegay said she has been treated respectfully in Sedro-Woolley.

“I feel like a lot of people don't want to move to Sedro-Woolley because they feel it's too conservative, and it's too closed off, and I never felt that,” she said. “As a matter of fact, I just love the way I'm treated in Sedro-Woolley.” 

Now Kornegay is running to be a delegate for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. She wants to attend the national convention this July in Philadelphia. That’s her hometown.

I absolutely adore Hillary,” she said. In 2008, however, she supported Obama.

“Since then I've been watching her career,” she said of Clinton. “As a woman's rights advocate, there's just no way not to support her. And what she does for women.

“There's been lots of times where I've seen women have good ideas and men get the credit. And that's fine. But now it's time for us to notice that's been happening.”

Year started with KUOW: 2004