Christopher Powanda, originally from Seymour, Connecticut, is a first-time candidate for Place 1 on the Mountain Brook City Council, running against Graham Smith, a PTO president for Cherokee Bend Elementary School and former legislative director for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama.
His platform includes support for local business, his belief in keeping “all political groups and politically motivated curriculum out of our schools,” and a review of the funding behind the Mountain Brook Athletics programs. He has also said that “Transparency; Accountability; Accessibility” is what residents should expect from him if he is elected to the City Council, according to a post from his campaign’s Facebook page.
In recent weeks, Powanda has received criticism from residents over his past social media posts perpetuating falsehoods and misinformation concerning the 2020 election.
In screenshots obtained by APR, Powanda said in a post dated Nov. 23, 2020, that “Sydney Powell represents me,” referring to the Texas attorney and far-right conspiracy theorist who was responsible for filing a number of former President Donald Trump’s election lawsuits.
“So if I run my stimulus check through a dominion voting machine at 4 am…Will my $600 turn into $100,000,” Powanda wrote in a post dated Dec. 22, 2020.
In the days following the attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Trump, Powanda defended the incident and shared misleading information related to alleged infiltration by far-left instigators during the events on Jan. 6.
“What happened in Washington DC today was 100% a peaceful protest and an exhibition of American’ first amendment rights!” Powanda wrote in a Facebook post on Jan, 6. 2021, obtained by APR. “What happened inside of the capital was an operation conducted by Antifa.”
“The biggest story no one is talking about! How the deep state Cabal conspired to rig the election!” Powanda wrote in a post dated Feb. 6, 2021, sharing an article from Time Magazine. “Democracy is dead!”
The litany of controversial posts has since been removed from Powanda’s personal Facebook page, and he has yet to use the same rhetoric on his campaign page.
The prevalence of election deniers running as candidates in elections has not escaped the local level, with a laundry list of federal and state officials from Alabama having objected to the election results showing a victory for President Joe Biden or continuing to perpetuate falsehoods surrounding the election in the years since the election.
According to a recent Monmouth University poll, only 64 percent of respondents believed that Biden won the election “fair and square,” compared to 29 percent who believed that his victory was due to voter fraud.
Powanda also shared a post of a purported Mike Tyson quote that said: “Social Media made y’all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it,” with some residents pointing out that Powanda had been previously charged with assault in 1997.
While a student-athlete at the University of New Haven, Powanda was involved in a barroom brawl near UNH’s campus that left an off-duty female police officer and three men “severely beaten,” according to the Associated Press. Powanda, a fellow teammate, and his then-girlfriend were each charged with assault.
According to an article from the New Haven Register from 1998, Powanda and girlfriend threatened to sue over the incident and said in documents filed with the city of West Haven — where the incident took place — that their arrest was “racially motivated.” Both the arresting officer and the off-duty female police officer, who was a member of the campus police at Yale University, were Black, the New Haven Register wrote.
The assault charges for Powanda and his then-girlfriend were later reduced to misdemeanor public disturbance.
In a Facebook post explaining the events in question, Powanda said that the off-duty police officer attacked Marchant, forcing him to separate the off-duty officer and Powanda’s girlfriend and leave before further fighting occurred. The pair returned to the pub to speak with police and were greeted by both city and campus police.
“We gave the police our details and let the justice process happen, and to my shock, I was arrested, as was my girlfriend, and one other teammate.” Powanda said. “As it turned out, the inebriated woman who had assaulted my girlfriend was an off-duty police officer from a nearby university. In the following weeks, the police evidence – which included video – was collected. Not only did I not assault the off-duty officer, but I never threw a punch or laid hands on anyone in that pub. The assault charge was dropped to a misdemeanor public disturbance, as it was determined I had no involvement in any of the fighting which occurred.”
APR was not able to locate filings with Connecticut Court Records and the city of West Haven related to the incident in 1997 and the claims made by Powanda at the time that the arrest was “racially motivated.”
Powanda did not respond to a request for comment from APR.
A key issue for Mountain Brook residents leading into the upcoming election is the ability of the City Council to choose members of the Mountain Brook Board of Education. Incidents of anti-Semitism in city schools, which the school responded to with diversity and anti-bias training program for instructors created by the Anti-Defamation League, and the school’s pandemic masking policy, have both drawn criticism, and support, from members of the wealthy community.
Parents concerned that the ADL would bring discussions of critical race theory and abortion rights into the classroom forced the school system to withdraw the program, with many now supporting candidates in the upcoming election that would prevent anything similar from happening in Mountain Brook schools in the future. The slate of challengers, including Powanda, have never held city office.
The Mountain Brook City Council elections will be held on Aug. 23.