Thoughts on the Recent Elections
By Greg Ritchie
Editor’s note: Greg’s Corner is an editorial (opinion) section where Messenger Reporter Greg Ritchie shares odds and ends from the job and unusual or interesting facts from across the world and across time.
MESSENGER OFFICE – With the elections over, I thought it might be appropriate to give my take on what went down and why things turned out the way they did. Typical media – I know – the President speaks for two minutes and the talking heads analyze it for two days. But there were some interesting lessons to be learned in these elections – for all sides.
In the mayoral race, the incumbent mayor had the advantage of being the incumbent and, as long as there was no great disaster in the city, ran on the fact that most people were not dissatisfied with the way things were going. It was for the challenger to prove she could do something different – or do the same only better, faster, cheaper.
The mayor walks away with the win and a pretty clear mandate to keep doing what she has been doing. I was able to spend time with both candidates before and during the campaign and as far as I could tell, the two women – both fiercely competitive – were civil and decent to each other which we should all be proud of.
The candidates in precinct one, too, seemed to get along and kept things civil. Dennis Ivey won due to his reputation as an honest and virtuous man, along with promises to do right by the citizens. Samantha Wiley has good intentions and while she had the chance to go negative, chose not to do so. Joe Don James, relatively unknown before the race, showed himself to be very capable at city business and we will no doubt see his name on a ballot in the future.
Precinct two was…another story. With both candidates and their supporters trashing people online and around town, it was politics at its worst. I don’t live in that precinct and take no sides. Yelling at people online, “exposing” the other candidate – I doubt anyone paid attention expect the people who already agreed with whatever was being said. The incumbent was a vulnerable candidate, with room for criticism. Online posters talked about his “past.” Whom did they hope to convince by posting this? The people who, knowing his past, already put him in office? Some supporters talked about one candidate’s personal life – also out of bounds.
Elections are not won by signs and clever remarks online, at least not in a small town. You need to go out and see the people. Shake hands. I don’t care who you are or how many people love you or how big your business is. What are you going to do for me? I vote for you so you will help make my city a little better while I get on with other things. I don’t care what a terrible human being you say your opponent is. Why should you become the voice for the several hundred people in my neighborhood?
There was a small group in Crockett led by a local businessperson who pushed and funded several of the campaigns. Fine, this is legal and normal and part of the democratic process. There were signs and shirts and stickers – but seemingly no strategy. “Vote for us. Because…reasons.” In fact, almost every candidate backed by this group lost.
And that’s because of the tactics employed. Who thought going online or the local radio station and complaining would change one single vote in these races? Did anyone visit precinct two? Did anyone take each Sunday and visit a different church? Visit the local restaurants? Walk the street and say, “You don’t know me but if you give me a chance I want to be your voice.” These races were decided by dozens, not thousands of votes.
People in Crockett – and Houston County – are smarter than people give us credit for. We know when something is not right. There were meetings held where candidates were convinced to run and most of them lost. But it didn’t have to happen.
I have never met Trump or Biden. I had to go by what I saw on television, by what I saw at rallies I attended, by what other people told me. This is Houston County. I ran into some of the candidates all the time, almost every day. I saw the mayor at different events I was covering, Connie at the local coffee shop, Ivey, Caldwell, James getting breakfast. My wife and I saw Wiley in line to try some chicken. Some of the candidates just didn’t seem to get out enough.
Some of the online posters gave me a pretty good laugh, to be honest. One in particular, not even registered to vote in Houston County, called on everyone else to vote and complained about candidates not paying their property taxes. A fair point to make and people should know if public figures are not living up to what is expected of all of us! The person posting is about three years behind in paying property taxes in the county, too, by the way.
Others complained about the low turnout for the election – somewhere around 25-30%. With all the negativity, I am surprised so many came out to vote at all. The challengers simply did not do enough to motivate people to get out and vote to change things.
Once again, I will say, let’s work together. I know the gossip is fun. I know it’s exciting to throw verbal stones – and don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of politicians who have it coming! But with the election behind us, it’s time to unfriend the people who keep complaining, stop listening to the people who keep the conspiracy theories alive with only a spoonful of truth. Stop answering the people who call to complain about people of this or that color.
Let’s make Crockett great again.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]