So after meeting up with some friends yesterday in Northern Alabama, I decided to plan a route that made McCaysville in Fannin County on the way home. It took some creative thinking to justify that as a direct route, but I wanted to stop by the Fannin County GOP picnic to see how things were going in the 9th Congressional District after last Tuesday’s special election, and in the midst of a Congressional runoff.
There was a straw poll conducted, with ballots due by 12:30. Some speakers went after the ballot deadline, and I can’t imagine that helped their cause. I especially enjoyed hearing Darwin Carter speak, and now that I have, I’ll never confuse him with his namesake Jimmy. John Douglas also spoke after the ballots were due. There were others, but those are the two I remember.
The only potential surprise from the straw poll balloting was that Karen Handel took top honors from Nathan Deal in his home district, with both being present. In talking to some of the locals in attendance, I remain of the opinion that many will continue to support Deal because he is their local candidate, but also expect him to be in full time retirement soon. I’ll also note that a couple of the event organizers were clearly expecting John Oxendine to attend. He did not. I’m sure he felt he had somewhere more important to tweet from today.
It was also my first time seeing new candidates on the trail for campaigns that did not exist before qualifying week. As mentioned above, John Douglas was in attendance as was Jeff May. Both are running for the seat vacated by the surprise retirement of PSC member Bobby Baker. I’ve known Senator Douglas for a while, and met Rep May for the first time today. One of them will earn my vote over competitors Tim Echols (R-SupportsWhoeverWillPayMoneyForAnArmyOfHomeschoolers) and former Senator Joey Brush (R-Can’tSeeHisNameWithoutThinkingOfLindaShrinko).
As for the straw poll itself, we all know and understand around here that they are a political Rorschach test. Anyone can see virtually anything they want in them. While some can use the results to read tea leaves, I believe there was a real nugget that came from today’s event that will explain how events will occur in the 9th CD over the next few weeks.
Lee Hawkins spoke and left before I arrived, which was approximately half way through the event. I got to hear Tom Graves speak, and was again reminded why I fully support his candidacy. A few speakers later, Steve Tarvin, the man who came in third overall and won more counties than Lee Hawkins, had a chance to address the crowd. He divided his speech into two parts, and they were both worthwhile.
He started with a preface, about the campaign itself and his position after the special election. Given that the election to complete former Representative Deal’s unexpired term is just a month before the July Primary, he is in the unique position of potentially swaying the runoff to one person, then having to try and beat them in another primary one month later. He made it clear he is still running for Congress, and, as such, he will not endorse either candidate in the runoff. Nor will he drop out or cease campaigning for July. He noted that he had been talking with Tom and smiling just before his speech, but that didn’t mean he was endorsing him…but then also went on to say good things about Graves. He ended the first part by stating that whatever happened, he would be fully supportive of the nominee, him or another, after the July primary.
I take him at his word, and do not believe he was giving a wink-wink, nod-nod endorsement to Graves. He is a man that has a known independent streak, and does not shy away from uphill battles. That said, in the rules of runoff campaigns, his friendliness and kind words toward Graves speak volumes. For Hawkins, a distant number two candidate, to overtake front running Graves, he needs to not only improve his turnout on his home turf of Hall, but he would have to convert significant numbers of Tarvin voters to become Hawkins voters. Tarvin’s comments assured that he will not assist to make that happen. In a race that started with Graves at a geographic disadvantage, it is Hawkins who now seems to be playing on the smallest piece of real estate. Graves took Forsyth County away from what Hawkins believed to be his, and now should be positioned to convert Tarvin’s voters on the North/West side of the district to supporting the like-minded Graves.
I’ll add a few words about the second part of Tarvin’s speech as well. It was the part that was about him. I first heard Tarvin speak at a Walker County GOP dinner several months ago, and he is an impressive candidate and an impressive man. A self-made entrepreneur, Tarvin co-owns and operates a large textile business in NW Georgia. He emphasizes that he’s made a $4 Million payroll, he’s paid millions in utility bills and taxes, and he understands how to put people to work and keep them working. He is the kind of person we need in government.
I remain committed to seeing Tom Graves become a Congressman, because I believe he is also the kind of person we need in government. But I hope Tarvin will have another day. New maps will be drawn between now and 2012. There may be an open state House or Senate Seat, or one that may deserve a primary challenge. Possibly, an open Congressional seat could occur if the maps are drawn in the usual custom by Ouiji Board. He is qualified and worthy for any of the above, and I hope that if he is not successful this July, he will keep an open eye toward his options in two years.