EDWARDSVILLE - Mayor of Edwardsville, and state Senate candidate, Hal Patton expressed his "sincere regret" during Tuesday night's City Council meeting regarding a photo showing him in blackface as part of what he refers to as a Halloween costume.

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"I do want to address to the citizens and the community my sincere regret over a picture and an article that was put in the Belleville News-Democrat, and a very poor decision I made about nine years ago to attend a Halloween costume party, with my wife, who was dressed up as bubble gum and went as a rapper," Patton said to those in attendance Tuesday night. "There was no racial intent of that. It was simply a costume.

"Those that know me, know that I'm not that type of person and I never will be. I do not want to demean anyone ever in my life and I really sincerely regret that. I have read recently about the sensitivities of blackface and dressing in that style. I did not have that clear in my mind when I dressed that night and I hurt some people and for that, I regret that, I apologize to all of them sincerely, with that we'll move on to the consent agenda."

Many citizens were in attendance Tuesday, for multiple issues on the agenda, including protestors from Action Metro East, including Jerri Michael, Robyne O'Mara, Lynne Burnett and Keith Rose, were present to let Patton know they "won't be represented by a racist."

"We wont be represented by a racist," Robyne O'Mara with Action Metro East said. "He apologized for being a rapper, well there are lots of white rappers. Being a rapper is acceptable, but putting on blackface is horribly unacceptable. We cannot see him as state Senator, he cannot represent the community when he insults it."

O'Mara's comment about white rappers being active in the rap industry can be seen from artists such as Eminem, whose album "Relapse" ranked in at number two on the Billboard charts in 2009, nine years ago.

Other citizens in the council chambers could be overheard saying the photo wasn’t that offensive.

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“I can tell you a whole bunch of people who did it,” one person stated. “Shirley Temple did it. Bing Crosby did it.”

In a statement Patton released on his website, which can be found in its entirety here, he stated that there have been threats of the photo being released in the past and referred to the release as "the second desperate act taken against me in this election cycle."

This is the second desperate act taken against me in this election cycle," the statement reads. "Clearly, my opponent and her allies will use any methods, no matter how pathetic, to maintain power and control of our political system in Illinois. The more I get into trying to change the disfunction in Springfield, the more disgusted I get and the greater resolve I find."

Members of Action Metro East said it seemed bizarre that Patton would deflect the issue onto his opponent.

"He tried to excuse his behavior by deflecting it," O'Mara said.

Rachelle Aud Crowe, the Democratic candidate for the same Senate position which Patton is running for, released a statement after the issue was deflected towards her campaign saying elected officials should be held to the highest of standards.

“I was shocked to see this photo of Mayor Hal Patton in blackface. I’m not sure why he would ever think that wearing blackface is appropriate - it’s offensive and completely unacceptable. Blackface is racist, ignorant, and threatens the advancements we’ve made in the long fight for civil rights and equality" Crowe stated.

"Elected officials should be held to the highest standard. They should be dedicated to serving the people they represent, not using stereotypes that divide us. Patton's actions don't represent our community, and are a painful reminder that we have much more work to do in achieving full equality and overcoming harmful stereotypes."

"In response to this photo, Hal Patton has made excuses and deflected by attacking me. There is no excuse for blackface," Crowe's statement continued. "Patton is circulating petitions to get on the ballot under the “Downstate United” party, but his actions don't represent Downstate values and only divide our community."

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