The field wasn't quite full and the spectators too few, but I doubt anyone left last Thursday's Stump Meeting in Grovetown wishing they'd instead stayed home to watch TV.
In fact, I think we've found a pretty good method for auditioning contestants for "Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?"
The only two candidates who didn't appear are the only 10th District congressional candidates from Columbia County: Jim Whitehead and Evita Paschall. Their stand-ins did an OK job, but there's no substitute for the real McCoy.
As for those who were there, Michael Maloney of Grovetown gives a good review of their performance in his letter today. The event gave me an opportunity to make a few notes, too.
In the 24th District state Senate race:
- Brett McGuire had the most substance to his comments. But it was hard to follow because he talked faster than the lawyers on the end of drug commercials.
- Scott Nichols, the only Democrat in the 24th District race, gave upbeat, energetic comments - and then flubbed his ending by asking voters to send him "to the 24th sentence."
- Bill Jackson, easily the best orator of the bunch, delivered a decent enough talk but wasn't up to his usual standards.
- Lee Benedict is not an extemporaneous speaker. He really should work from prepared text - or a TelePrompTer.
And in the 10th District:
- Denise Freeman, who has twice run for the seat and lost, by far is the best speaker. While Bill Jackson often sounds like a Baptist preacher, Freeman is as rousing as a televangelist.
- Mark Meyers sought the seat in 1988, 1990 and 1992. During his remarks, I kept thinking I was seeing a parody episode of VH-1's I Love the '80s. The other candidates frequently invoked the name of Charlie Norwood; Meyers hearkened to Ronald Reagan - and even had two of his supporters hold up a photo of Reagan near the stage.
- Erik Underwood is a rarity; a black Republican, at age 27, seeking a congressional office. He had one of the best lines of the evening, telling voters to switch channels to a younger generation, "from Norwood to Underwood."
- Paul Broun, an Athens physician who started running for the seat long before Norwood died, pulled the only Jerry Springer, taking the mike from the stand and walking to the front of the stage. His comments didn't match the drama, though two of the other candidates did start hitting each other with chairs (just kidding).
- Barbara Sims spoke on behalf of Whitehead. She did a credible job, but the audience needed to hear from the man himself.
- Same thing with Evita Paschall's stand-in. I didn't catch his name, but I'm not sure anyone could electrify voters with her slogan: "Putting the People of the 10th District First."
- James Marlow, who has lined up significant support from state Democratic Party officials, talked mostly about the war, and pledged to support Norwood's Patients Bill of Rights.
- Jim Sendelbach, a Libertarian, presented a case for picking him rather than a candidate from the gridlocked major parties.
- Bill Greene, one of six candidates who don't live in the district, gave the best close-enough defense: "It isn't where I sleep, but where I stand" - mostly to the right of everyone else.
- Nate Pulliam had one of the best zingers. After Greene touted the success of his conservative spamming service, Pulliam said Greene had done such a great job that he should keep doing it - and let Pulliam go to Congress.
Next chance to hear these folks will be today at 7 p.m. for a 10th District debate at Augusta State University. Then on June 19th we'll vote them off the island.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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