The candidates for the Columbia County District 4 Commission seat depend on the votes of just the registered voters of District 4 to win their election. But after the election, to be effective, they must depend on the votes of the other four commissioners.
Perhaps thats why I was so taken aback at the comments Monday night of one of the candidates. The harsh, us-vs.-them rhetoric of Sam Jones sends all the wrong signals to the voters of District 4, and especially to the other 75 percent of the countys residents who live outside that district.
Repeatedly at Mondays session in Grovetown, Jones attacked the other districts and candidates - and ultimately the entire county.
"Were tired of being disconnected and being the stepchild of Columbia County," said Jones, whose self-imposed disconnectedness has come fairly recently, since hes only lived in the district a year and a half after moving there from hated Martinez.
By contrast, all of the other candidates have lived in District 4 at least a decade, and seem much less disconnected.
Among other things, Jones took a swipe at the state-funded bike path in Evans, advocated digging a new landfill in Martinez-Evans (sure, hes being facetious, but the smart-aleck comment was uncalled for) and accused Columbia County officials of dining at the money trough.
Those other public officials, mind you, make up an elective body that acts only with a majority vote. An outsider attitude may provide material for fiery speeches, but it fizzles when the other commissioners cooperation is needed to get the other 75 percent of the countys population to spend money in your district instead of theirs.
When theres an avowed outsider on a legislative body, the other voting members tend to leave the outsider outside, sitting alone on the tail end of losing votes. That person can claim all he or she wants to be standing up for some vague principle, but the result is that voters in that district are consistently left out.
Cooperation and compromise is the key to making these bodies work, and the other candidates seem to understand that. Sam Jones, however, makes it clear that hes more interested in confrontation than cooperation. The voters in District 4 could count on stepchild status if their commissioner refuses to be a part of the family.
One family that isnt too happy with Jones is the countys Republican Party, which is sponsoring the three public forums this week.
Jones blasted his fellow Republicans Monday night, saying he was appalled that they were sponsoring the forums. By doing so, Jones enthusiastically carried the water of the countys Democrats after they whined about being left out.
Theyre just mad because they didnt think of setting up the forums first. Jones folks tried to set up a fourth forum in Appling, and asked me to serve as moderator; I backed out when it became clear that it was me being set up - as a middleman in a petty squabble.
Jones also has angered one of Harlems more beloved residents. Sue Whiddon, a 97-year-old retired school teacher, is incensed that Jones put her picture on a direct-mail campaign piece.
Jones says Whiddon knew exactly why the photo of the two of them was being taken in her front yard, and implies shes perhaps confused by friends who support other candidates.
Not so, Whiddon says. "I did not even know what he was going to do with my picture when he took it," Whiddon says. "He didnt tell me he was going to put it on a flyer or anything. Im very much hurt - I didnt think Sam was that way."
Just in case
The expected reaction from Jones and his campaign will be to claim Im beating up on him because hes the front runner. Even being charitable, I doubt hell poll better than third place in next Tuesdays race. It would be easier to ignore him, but that wouldnt be right.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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