15 Sep 2014
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Silva: 'Me? Racist? I Don't Think So'

Ward 8 State Rep candidate Peter Silva stands firmly by his family tree in defending himself against a charge of racism.

Silva: 'Me? Racist? I Don't Think So'
Ten days before Election Day, and Pete Silva is up with the sun, preparing to hit the campaign trail in Ward 8 with his supporters.

There's a lot at stake in Ward 8. 

It's been a week since Silva found himself making local headlines, under fire from Democrats as a "racist" and "bigot" for a comment he made at a recent Republican Committee meeting, directed at his opponent, Latha Mangipudi, and her ability to get out the vote.

That comment came on Oct. 10 when Silva told his fellow Republicans Mangipudi, who is of Indian descent, would likely benefit on Election Day from a large turnout of Indian voters, saying “they’ll be coming out of the woodwork.” Silva said what he said after watching the flow of voters arriving to Bicentennial Elementary school during the September Primary. 

"I thought I was in New Delhi," is what Silva reportedly said. 

On Saturday, Silva confirmed the remark. He also admitted that he's had pressure from within his own party to retract his comment and soften the rough edges of the political backlash now coming from both Democrats and Republicans.

"I went rogue on them with this. I'm not playing that game. I believe in truth, and what I said had nothing to do with race. There were 50 to 60 people there who heard what I said. I was a Majority Leader – I know how to speak in a group of people, and I wasn't trying to be guarded, because what I said was harmless," Silva said.

"I'm standing by what I said, because people are turning it into something it isn't. If there had been a huge turnout of Italian voters, and someone said, 'It looks like Little Italy,' I wouldn't have a problem with that. Hold on," said Silva, who steps into the next room to retrieve a photograph and a small stack of papers.

"Here's why accusations of racism are more than ridiculous. I don't wear my family's history on my sleeve but my grandfather came here in 1903 from Cape Verde. My grandfather was black. He had 10 children and, of those 10 children, my father is the only one who married a white woman, which means all my cousins are black," Silva said. "So me? Racist? I don't think so."

According to the 1930 Census, Inocencio Silva settled in Carver, Mass., after arriving in 1903 from Cape Verde with his wife, Meclina Silva. 

"In fact, my grandmother's family disowned her for marrying a black man," Silva said.

Former Speaker of the House William O'Brien remains in Silva's corner, having posted a comment on his public Facebook page on Oct. 18 asking for support for Silva by showing "the Ray Buckleys and other of that ilk that we are here, we will remain here, and we stand behind our own. We can show the state party that what is truly alive and vibrant in this party are its conservative activists and not the vestigial Country Club dinosaurs," O'Brien wrote.

Whatever schism there is within the New Hampshire Republican party is made worse, Silva said, by the obsession with political correctness  across the board – not just in politics, but in general – something that detracts from getting at the issues that really matter to voters. 

"If you're wrong, you're wrong. If I say something racist or bigoted, I will be the first one to apologize. In this case, I say don't try to create things that aren't there. What I see is that the Democrats are trying to get away from the issues because they have no platform," Silva said.  

Silva believes what voters are looking for is honesty, and someone who isn't afraid to speak his mind.

"Earlier in the week we met with some of the party leaders at Denny's at Exit 6, to talk about how to go forward. We were going through the discussion over me making an apology. I said it wasn't on the table, and that I wasn't going to do it. And then this elderly couple who was sitting in the back gets up and comes over to me say, 'We just want to tell you you're a breath of fresh air, and do us a favor and move to Boscawen so we can vote for you.' I gave them a hug," Silva said.

"Anybody who knows me knows the kind of person I am. I'm not a racist. I'm not a bigot, or a homophobe. Unfortunately we live in a world where we have to worry about every single word we say," Silva said. "One reason I got into politics is this PC net we're under. It's killing us."

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