Public didn't turn out for candidate forum


Let’s clean out the notebook, with emphasis on the Japer Main Street candidate forum last Saturday  ...

• The  event was nice, but as far as getting the general public there to hear candidates, it didn’t work, especially on a nice sunny day with 12 events. (I'm told many of the other local political events recently haven't generated much turnout, either.) Candidates were generally talking to other candidates and supporters sitting or standing around the courthouse square. I felt sorry for these candidates having to come all that distance to the point I made sure everyone got a mention and a website mentioned, and at least a little written. (Even then we had to cut some for space.)

• Sometimes it is the little things that get your attention. Gubernatorial candidate Bill Hightower, who is for term limits, held up a barbecue sauce bottle to make a point about labeling, and did not fail to mention the expiration date. 

• Desperation Church got a thanks from Will Ainsworth, the lieutenant governor candidate, who brought his family, including young kids. I took it he made it up a little with the kids by taking them to the kids area. The family was also seen eating to themselves in Warehouse 319 during the lunch break. 

I would say he and opponent Rusty Glover were good (Glover, a state senator, came across as a very nice man), but Ainsworth may be more organized with a platform and a presentation. And it probably doesn't matter, because the third candidate who was not there was Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, who has much better name recognition than either of them. 

• I think gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox should get the Longevity Award. He spoke first among the candidates at 11 a.m. and stayed for several hours. I even talked to him a minute about the need for a state welcome center on the Mississippi state border. (By the way, just about all the local candidates had booths, except for one or two. I didn't see Sheriff Jim Underwood, but between the litter cleanup requiring deputies and the fishing tournament, I figure he had his hands full.)  

• Were there themes? I can tell you in a day dominated by Republicans I heard several mentions about guns, with links with NRA and BamaCarry. I heard a lot about ethics reform (in the wake of the state scandals) and stands against abortion. Gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson said a line that echoed others sentiments that day, saying, "It's time to get rid of Common Core and bring back common sense." And we’re going to improve education to make sure our kids can have jobs. (Hightower even talked about certificates before they graduate so they would be job ready, which sounded too close to me to not getting a full high school diploma.) 

• One of my favorite parts of the day involved Dawson, who said the Bible says to treat everyone with respect. "You have to ask yourself, 'When did civility die in our country?'" he said, calling to bring back the days when people used to agree to disagree on things and still move the state forward. I fear we don't have enough people saying that enough. 

• Jasper Mayor David O’Mary had to be busting his buttons Saturday. Maddox and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle went out of their way to as mayors to commend Jasper and its revitalization efforts; I do think they were impressed with what has been done with the downtown area, and that is no small thing considering the economic success they have had with their cities. By the way, despite the fact they are from different parties, they did greet each other warmly and chatted during the event. I told them when they were together that I have heard a number of people tell me they wish the election was "between the two mayors." (What you wish and what happens are two different things, however.) 

• Was there security? Was there ever. I saw the high security vehicles out, and armed law enforcement were seen near the podium. Jasper police were taking the whole thing quite seriously. 

• I really can’t say I heard much comment against Gov. Kay Ivey, who didn’t show up, although Battle had just released a TV commercial critical of Ivey’s involvement with the state’s failed PACT program for college students. But the truth is polling continues to show her so well off that I’ve heard some wonder if she can win the primary without a runoff. 

• Of course, there were other events Saturday. I was impressed with the car show at Living Light Church of God, which had a good turnout of cars even before the announced starting time. The proceeds went to some of their events; I understand 1,200 or so turned out for their church event for kids around Halloween time, which I think stunned even them.

• The fishing tournament probably had a great impact on the county. I met five FLW anglers at Walker Baptist Medical Center, and they were great guys. One had a baby recently, and if he came home early, he got to play with the baby, so I think he felt that he won either way. 

One thing to note about local tourism: We concentrated so much on the fishing tournament, that we never thought much about Talladega. I met two men from Chicago at Jim and Nick's who were staying overnight before heading to the races. I am told we get a number of Talladega fans that come through, stay the night and even load up with supplies. (By the way, one of the guys wore a Cubs jacket. He said the feeling in Chicago is that the Ricketts family is now using the Cubs popularity and jacking up ticket prices so the common guy will not be able to go to Wrigley. And the world goes round ...

• I will remind you that the National Day of Prayer is today. Carbon Hill will be holding its event at noon at City Hall, which should have a good turnout. Meanwhile, I am glad the AIM Bible study group that usually meets at Les Reyes at noon will instead have a prayer event at the courthouse square in Jasper at noon, and is open to anyone in the community coming to pray. It is not terribly organized in terms of a program, but sometimes the best of these events comes from letting God move to let Him set the agenda. I think it is terribly important to have this day marked in Jasper with all the challenges we face, and I hope that people show up.