Four of the six candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the Fourth Congressional District attended the Union County GOP cookout. Incumbent Bob Inglis, State Sen. David Thomas, 7th Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy and businessman Andrew Smart, co-owner of Duke’s Sandwich Co., shook hands, ate hot dogs and answered questions about issues and what they’d to address them.
As an added bonus, the cookout was graced with the presence of Sally Atwater, widow of Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater. Her visit was a reminder that there’s more to Union County than meets the eye and that we’re worthy of the attention of all candidates who seek our vote.
Ms. Jeffrey and Lee did not attend, however, and while I’m certain they’ll eventually make their way here I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to notice their absence. They should have been here because it would have demonstrated they are serious about courting the voters of Union County.
A cookout may not seem like a big deal, especially this early in the election cycle, but elections are often won and lost at such events. Candidates who invest their time, energy and money to make their way to such events show they know that each vote counts and that no community is too small to merit their attention. People remember that personal touch: that handshake and the attention paid to them by a candidate.
Strom Thurmond was a master of the personal, grassroots approach to politics. He understood that while big media campaigns have their place, people want to be asked personally. They want the candidates to come to their communities, speak at their churches, attend their parades, eat at their restaurants and just spend time among them.
Saturday’s cookout provided the Fourth Congressional candidates with the opportunity to introduce themselves to the people of Union County in a relaxed setting. It was a wonderful way for the candidates to acquaint and/or reacquaint themselves with the people of this county.
That brings me to my next question: Why didn’t more people show up to meet the candidates?
You had four congressional candidates — and one State House candidate, Randall English — gathered under one roof. This was a great opportunity to voice your concerns, ask questions and find out where they stand on the issues you’re most interested in. That more people didn’t show up bothers me more than the absence of two candidates.
I know, it was Saturday and you had other things to do, but so did I and yet I made time to go to the cookout and question the candidates. Yes, I’m a reporter and it’s part of my job, but I’d have gone anyway because I want to get to know the people who are asking me to make them part of the most important legislative body on the planet.
Union County is a predominantly Democratic county. That predominance, however, is largely local because the higher up you move on the political ladder the more Republican the county’s voting habits become. There is no excuse for not coming to hear what the candidates have to say.
A woman once asked Benjamin Franklin what he and the rest of the Founding Fathers had given this country. He replied, a republic, if the people could keep it.
Taking advantage of an opportunity to see and hear candidates for public office is how we keep our republic. If a candidate doesn’t meet the voters, it can be disastrous. If, however the people don’t take the opportunity to meet the candidates, that could be disastrous for the country.