If Newt Gingrich were to become the Republican nominee for President, or for that matter, President of the United States of America, Tony Center, a Savannah attorney and veteran Democratic political activist, could be a footnote to history.
That’s because in 1992, Center ran against Gingrich for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Two years after Gingrich defeated Center, Gingrich would become Speaker of the House.
But how Gingrich beat Center, including accusations from Center that Gingrich did nothing while Center was the target of an anti-Semitic mailer and that Gingrich purposefully launched a broadcast attack ad against Center on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, so that Center could not respond in a timely manner, could be issues for Gingrich as he heads into the final days of the Presidential Preference Primary in Florida.
In 1992, Center and Gingrich squared off for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. During the campaign, a flier written by a well-known white supremacist, Dr. Edward Fields, surfaced, despite religion not being even a minor issue during the race.
The flier was left on cars and in Marietta mailboxes, according to Susan Medlock, the press secretary for Center’s campaign (via The Atlanta Jewish Times).
While Gingrich’s campaign adamantly denied any involvement in the distribution of the flier, to this day, Center is convinced Gingrich was aware of the flier.
“I am positive Newt Gingrich condoned and had knowledge of this (anti-Semitic) flier,” said Center. The flier, reminiscent of the hateful tracts printed in opposition to the Civil Rights movement, is headlined “Tony Center – Secret Jewish Candidate.”
Center continued: “This flier would not have made a difference in who won. This was a Republican seat. This was a hotbed of the John Birch Society. But if the flier would bring out another 10,000 anti-Semites, Gingrich would have let it go.”
Today, it’s difficult to imagine Gingrich, a staunch defender of Israel, resorting to such tactics, but Center is convinced Gingrich was aware of what was going on, and Center says, “Newt never said a word.”
Center cites as further proof of Gingrich’s sin of omission the fact that the Gingrich campaign launched a broadcast attack against Center on Yom Kippur, leaving Center with no timely way to respond.
“Newt knew I could not respond to an attack launched on Yom Kippur,” said Center. “He knew he would get a 24 hour head start on me.”
A former political opponent of Gingrich, one should certainly question why Center, who is a Democratic County Chairman in Georgia, is only now coming forward with these charges. Center said he was “contacted by a northeastern newspaper for information about Gingrich’s divorce and that’s when I came upon this information again.”
Asked why he wants this story to be told, Center is straight-forward, “Newt Gingrich makes people hate each other. If he were to become president, he’d make it so one half of this country hated the other half.”
“I don’t think Newt Gingrich is good for the country.”