MONMOUTH, Illinois -- Political newcomer DuWayne Brooks, who is openly gay, charges that anti-gay and racist web slurs directed at him are marring real issues in Monmouth's mayoral race.
This Vietnam War veteran and retired administrator, 69, now must tangle with unseen online foes.
"I cannot vote for you because you're gay," read one post. "I do not want a gay mayor for Monmouth."
These posts are directed at the candidate in his first bid for political office.
"Monmouth doesn't need a black mayor to run it into ruin," read another.
Brooks, who was victimized by a hate crime in Monmouth five years ago, says the recent slurs caught him off-guard.
"There's no place for it," he said on Tuesday, March 28.
It's not stopping Brooks, who received an outpouring of support from hundreds of on and off-line well-wishers.
"My Facebook was off the charts," he said.
That's reinforcing his key reason to run for mayor: to improve communication at Monmouth City Hall.
"There is a huge, huge cavern of disconnect between the citizens of Monmouth and the current administration," he said.
But Monmouth is familiar territory for Mayor Rod Davies, 64. After guiding the city of 9,400 through good times and bad during his 12 years in office, he's seeking a fourth term as mayor.
Davies, who has tallied a quarter-century in public service, thrives on challenges.
"I love fixing the problems," he said. "I like trying to find the right tools in the toolbox to fix the problems."
As campaign signs dot the landscape these days, the city continues to work hard to enhance existing businesses while developing new ones.
"I want to provide for all the families of Monmouth the same opportunities I had: to grow up here and be able to stay here, raise a family and make a good living here," he said.
Often running unopposed for mayor, this time there's a whole group of candidates trying to shake up Monmouth City Hall.
That doesn't deter Davies, who believes voters will pick experience over a first-timer.
"I think the voters are going to select a candidate who's best qualified for the job," he said.
For his part, Brooks want to put the web slurs aside and focus on the task.
"I'm being looked at as a viable candidate for mayor of Monmouth," Brooks concluded. "And not as a black man or a gay man or anything else."
Whether supporting the status quo or a fresh start, Monmouth voters will make their decisions on Tuesday, April 4.