One of the local newspapers has made it very clear that it is not happy with the quality of candidates in the race for Cobb chairman. (Disclaimer: I am one of them.)
They keep dragging names out of the closet hoping that one of them will bite and jump into the campaign. These people must know something that I don’t because none have accepted the offer.
But having been in this race since October and having distributed more campaign literature than even Chick-fil-A has with its free lunch or dinner meal cards, I believe I have a good idea of why so few people want to run for chairman. Unincorporated Cobb simply doesn’t want one.
I’d say the signs are everywhere, but that would be misleading because many homeowner associations ban signs. I can appreciate my 18-by-24-inch sign competing with the pink flamingos, but why is my sign banned and the statues of little boys urinating on lawns not?
I tried to register for a booth at a festival in Cobb but was informed that the shopping mall where the festival was planned banned (there’s that word again) any political activity. I simply do not understand this. I consider myself a responsible citizen.
Unlike a prominent local figure, I always knew where I had left my sidearm during my 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. Did I mention that I fought in 2½ wars (I only count Korea as half since there is an armistice) and standing guard with our country’s finest men and women to ensure that people can enjoy the vendors at festivals in Cobb—in freedom?
To be fair, the owners of the shopping mall must be concerned about the dangers to the public that political candidates bring. So after learning from the festival‘s sponsors that I wouldn’t be allowed a presence at the festival, I looked very carefully at the security at festivals in Kennesaw, Smyrna and Marietta the last two weekends.
All of these municipalities (i.e. they are not in unincorporated Cobb) addressed political campaigning in different ways. It was eye opening. At first I believed that the in Kennesaw had controlled the large contingent of politicians by confining them to the parade in cars. But then I realized that that was where all the free candy was being distributed, and it all made sense.
The city did take a big chance in putting candidate for Judge of State Court Marsha Lake’s booth right on Main Street. But they offset that very nicely by putting the Cobb GOP booth right next to the mountain man carving totem poles with a chain saw ALL DAY LONG. (I know, I was working the GOP booth.) There was a very, very large police presence at the festival—they were in the parade riding motorcycles. All of us campaigning that day (I lost count at 15) got the message and behaved.
The city of Smyrna took another approach to minimizing the political activity and protecting its citizenry from the political hacks. It seemed that they made an effort to locate the campaign booths at an entrance so people won’t be bothered by expressions of free speech inside the festival.
I was a little tentative about handing out my literature, but you can’t be faint of heart in front of a dozen volunteers who gave up their Saturday to campaign. And people kept asking, “Who’s Mike?” It is the South, after all, and you do have to be courteous and answer. In all honesty, I did not see one police officer at the festival. They must have all been undercover.
Finally, the city of Marietta did it right. Their concert on Friday night and the on Sunday were so packed that you almost couldn’t walk around and hand out literature. I thought it was getting a little unruly when children started jumping into the fountain, but the lone policeman I saw was busy doing crowd control at the beer stand in the southeast corner of the Square.
I did ask Cynthia Yeager, who is running for district attorney, if she had any problem getting a booth for the festival. She looked at me, well you know, with that look of why would any candidate have a problem getting a booth anywhere? It IS America, isn’t it?
I am not just picking on the shopping mall because there are plenty of other barriers placed on candidates to the extent that it almost seems that the electorate would prefer to be uninformed. Unless you are an officeholder, try to find a service organization that will allow you time to present your platform. (I did find two, and, you guessed it, they are in municipalities.)
It’s not to say that there isn’t a way around this barrier. In my case, I give a presentation which is more unsettling than my campaign platform. (I am not sure if it is the message of low taxes or lean government that is scaring these organizations because surely my strong support for peace officers or firemen cannot be the issue.)
That topic is the U.S. budget. My hat is off to all the business organizations in Cobb that allow us to stand up for 10 seconds and announce who we are and what position we are running for. These meeting are generally held in unincorporated Cobb and, given the current climate of minimizing the presence of political candidates, providing this access must take some real courage
So all this brings me back to my original question of why we can’t seem to find quality candidates to be the Chairman of Unincorporated Cobb County. Given the warm reception we receive everywhere else in Cobb, it can only be that we really are not wanted. The smart ones pick up on this vibe and run for city mayor. I wish I had known that earlier.
But I have too much invested in this campaign to back out now. But I still plan on attending the festival. I’ll be the tall, tanned guy wearing a Marine Corps ball cap and a T-shirt with the name of one of my opponents stenciled over Mike for Chairman.