Brent Carter began his campaign for mayor last year, telling voters he would be “a voice for all Victorians.”
Carter, a native Victorian who is married with five children, said that he would not be “beholden to the old guard” and that he would bring energy and enthusiasm to the job. The 56-year-old wants to tackle economic development and beautification in the city and said he thinks cleaning up Victoria would make it a more appealing place for businesses to grow or expand.
Carter has built his name in Victoria through his morning radio program, the “Wade and Carter” show, which he co-hosts most weekdays with Ashley Walyuchow, the athletic director of the University of Houston-Victoria. The two usually talk about sports, national politics and local news. The show also broadcasts on the pair’s Facebook page.
Carter’s comments on the show have offended some city residents, who take issue with statements he has made, usually while discussing the news of the day. Critics say Carter’s radio show comments cause them to question whether he can actually be a voice for all Victorians. In a Facebook comment on the show’s page, for example, Carter called the tax increase passed by the Victoria school board last year a “tragic rape.”
In a Feb. 4 episode, while talking about Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam after photos showed the Democratic official wearing blackface, Carter said he thought it was “hilarious” to dress up like a “Muslim terrorist” in response to a listener’s Facebook comment.
“If you want to, get a bunch of flares and put, like, a Mickey Mouse alarm clock, and put it on your waist and wear a white robe,” Carter continued, “hey man, if the shoe fits, shine it. Get over it.”
Asked about such comments, Carter said he was open to tempering them.
“It’s an adult show. It gets a little on the edge. But it’s not designed to offend anybody,” he said. “I’m not trying to be divisive.”
Susannah Porr, a businesswoman who has lived in Victoria for about 15 years, said a candidate like Carter with a “questionable ethical background” would distract from the issues facing Victoria if he were to be elected.
“I generally think it’s important that we have a mayoral candidate that’s going to be inclusive and forward-thinking about the kind of community Victoria can be moving forward,” Porr said. “We have a large number of capable people, and there’s no reason we would take on somebody with that many unanswered questions.”
In a Jan. 22 episode, Carter and Walyuchow were discussing a white couple who told reporters they self-identified as black. Carter said: “You don’t think people are crazy, you think this is normal? All these people would be extinct in one generation if we would just leave them to what they do, it’s fine, OK,” he said. “Because right? Gay people don’t reproduce. Oh no, we’re going to enable them, we’re going to make more of them by saying, ‘Here just adopt, it’s cool.’ It’s a zoo, folks; we live in a zoo.”
Questioned about his comment suggesting gay people and others would go extinct in a generation, Carter said in an interview, “I actually stand by this statement. We do live in a zoo, we live in a crazy time, and it’s got nothing to do with homosexuality. These are such polarizing things: ‘Oh you got indicted a decade ago – oh you might have said something on the radio that offended somebody; therefore, we don’t want to choose you to fix our streets.’ It’s lunacy.”
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Tonika Bufford, a lifelong Victorian and caseworker, said she was concerned about Carter’s comments on the radio show.
“If people are willing to disregard, you know, a certain sector of the community, how then can you serve the community?” Bufford asked. “If you’re willing to be so flippant with your comments about a certain community, how then can you serve that community?”
Carter’s opponents say his use of offensive language extends outside the radio show, too. Numerous residents have pointed to a recent incident being discussed in the community, when Carter went to Mumphord’s Place BBQ and addressed the restaurant’s owner, Ricky Mumphord, as “boy,” an offensive term when directed at a black man. Mumphord confirmed the incident to the Advocate but said he did not want to comment about it or get involved in local politics.
Carter also confirmed the comment but said he and Mumphord had a good relationship.
“He has never said a word to me since that he was offended,” Carter said about Mumphord. “I believe this was a case of someone being offended on his behalf. And you know what? Shame on me. Shouldn’t have said it.”
Carter described his radio show as a hobby that he does in addition to his job as an insurance agent. Carter left Victoria for much of his early career before returning to his hometown. He works as an insurance agent and is affiliated with GSM Insurors. Carter has worked in insurance and sales throughout his career, which was put on hold in 2009 when he was accused of insurance fraud and indicted by federal prosecutors.
“I’m proud to explain it because I was found not guilty,” Carter said about the indictment and subsequent federal trial.
Federal prosecutors accused Carter and his former colleague, Michael Swetnam, of selling fake insurance policies that would provide coverage for hurricane damage to the Valley Baptist Health System, which runs hospitals in Harlingen and Brownsville.
Carter was found not guilty by a jury after a nine-day trial. Swetnam was found guilty of mail fraud and sentenced to more than three years in federal prison and was ordered to pay about $3 million in restitution to Valley Baptist.
Carter’s defense attorneys argued during the trial that Carter was not aware of Swetnam’s actions or of the behavior of their parent company, Smith-Reagan and Associates. Carter began working for the company in 2004. During the trial, federal prosecutors focused on a $425,000 check written to Carter from one of Swetnam’s companies. Prosecutors described the check as the portion of the proceeds for a fake insurance policy that Swetnam had sold to the hospital.
Federal prosecutions are rare, and prosecutors for the U.S. government indict fewer than 10,000 people each year on charges of white-collar crimes. The majority of people indicted by the federal government are found guilty.
“At the end of the day ... the expert witnesses explained that there was no insurance law broken, (and) the gentleman who went to jail was convicted of mail fraud,” Carter said to the Advocate.
Carter’s supporters say that, in person, the candidate is a caring person and a good listener.
“I think he’ll represent every person in the city,” said businessman Torin Bales, a prominent member of Victoria’s business community. “He has a lot of big dreams and hopes for Victoria. He wants to leave Victoria a better place than it is now for his kids.”
Bales, who has given $1,500 to Carter’s campaign, said he thought Carter would be the best cheerleader for the city and be able to work with the county government officials in a more constructive way.
“We’ll actually see our city and county working together for the first time, I think, in a while, and what a great opportunity that would be,” Bales said.
Carter said he is trying to share the message that Victoria is open for business.
“We’ve got to examine all the ordinances that impede business development in the city,” he said. “There are numerous business I know that have just had to fight the city tooth and nail just to get anything done, and I want the city to work for Victorians instead of against us.”
He’s also interested in seeing whether it would be feasible to give city employees access to Victoria County’s health clinic, which provides basic checkups to county residents. A major sticking point during the 2018 budget conversations was the health insurance plans for city employees, which some first responders said was too expensive for them to continue living in Victoria.
“I think my biggest give is going to be to share the love and devotion I have to Victoria with the world,” Carter said. “I believe Victoria’s future can be as exciting and as important as its past.”