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Hopefuls put on last-ditch stumps

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Just about everything that can be said has been said by, about, for and against those whose names are on Tuesday's ballot. Last week, there was a flurry of forums, barbecues, fish fries and get-out-the-vote rallies.

There was a fish fry in Hephzibah for incumbent Mayor Deke Copenhaver where both Senate District 23 incumbent J.B. Powell and his challenger George DeLoach were wearing "Keep Deke" stickers.

The Augusta Kiwanis Club sponsored a mayoral forum at the Ramada Plaza on Monday. The Grassroots Legislative Luncheon for the Arts was held Tuesday at Sacred Heart Cultural Center.

And the Republicans held a free barbecue at the Augusta Shrine Club on Thursday night attended by U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood and 12th District Congressional candidate Max Burns. Actually, Larry Sconyers of Sconyers Bar-B-Que was host since he donated the food for his "good friend Max."

Also Thursday, the Augusta branch of the NAACP held a political forum at New Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church.

In addition to a full slate of candidates, including Mr. Burns and incumbent U.S. Rep. John Barrow, there was a question and answer session with Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey; prayers, greetings from Dr. Charles Smith and others; and a stirring sermon by the Rev. Francys Johnson, the 27-year-old legal redress chairman of the state NAACP. The only thing missing was music.

They say it lasted until 11 p.m. I wouldn't know because deadlines loomed and I had to leave after Mr. Burns and Mr. Barrow were up, so I didn't get to hear former interim Mayor Willie Mays speak on Mr. Powell's behalf.

During Mrs. Bailey's presentation, a man rose to ask whether it was fair that Board of Elections member Tim Moses remained on the board while serving as Mr. Copenhaver's campaign manager during last year's mayoral election.

Mrs. Bailey told him she would not address the fairness of it but would address the legality. And she did, basically saying that it was not illegal since Mr. Moses was not involved in any aspect of the vote count. The Rev. Johnson must have disagreed, because he dropped his original speech and delivered a sermon on the civil rights struggle, during which he said Mr. Moses should have resigned and let someone else serve on the board.

On Friday, Americans for Immigration Control, the Dustin Inman Society and the Minuteman Political Action Committee came to Augusta to endorse Mr. Burns in a ceremony behind the Municipal Building.

They initially gathered near the back door of the Marble Palace, but Mrs. Bailey told them they would have to move 150 feet away because people were voting inside. So they moved to the edge of Telfair Street, which probably wasn't 150 feet, but any farther and they would have been in the street.

Now, except for the black ministers' election-eve town meeting at Antioch Baptist Church at 7 p.m. Monday, as they say in the country, "The hay's in the barn."

NORWOOD'S POST-HALLOWEEN HORROR: "I think I can say without going too far out on a limb, we're not going to lose the majority, and right now that is the number one priority in my life, is to not let Nancy Pelosi be the third most important, powerful person in this country.

"We can handle places like Iran and North Korea because we've got this brilliant military. But how do you handle somebody like Nancy Pelosi?"

The Congressman thinks the Republicans can lose as many as 12 seats but pick up two in Georgia.

"What that does is it stagnates the House," he said. "But whatever the agenda is, at least it will be under the control of the speaker. It will stop a $3 trillion dollar tax increase that will go into place automatically if Nancy Pelosi is elected. And a vote for John Barrow and a vote for Jim Marshall is a vote for Nancy Pelosi."

COLD WAR WARRIORS: In response to a question at Thursday's NAACP forum about whether they would help "dying Cold War soldiers" who worked at Savannah River Site, Mr. Barrow suggested bringing them into the Veterans Affairs system.

But then he said, "I've got news for you. We're not fully funding the VA. The cold warriors who are suffering and dying as a result of specific job-related illnesses that flourished at facilities that handled that kind of stuff (plutonium) may have huge acute problems, but they are the tip of the iceberg in terms of how this country is treating its veterans.

"We made a promise to them. 'You take up the colors. You wear the uniform, and we'll pay you less than you will make in the private sector. We'll make it up to you later on. Later on, we'll pay you health benefits.'

"What is wrong with the crowd that's in charge right now? I can't tell you because they won't say. I can tell you the only thing that describes their conduct. The only theory that fits all the facts is they think that veterans benefits and treating folks who served our country and giving the health care they need is some sort of welfare. They think of it as a welfare case. ... I look at it differently. I look at it as deferred compensation. We fall all over ourselves to give deferred compensation packages to corporate big shots but not to our veterans. That's wrong."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I'll tell you why. 'Cause even Fred Astaire can look pretty clumsy if his dance partner is Clem Kadiddlehopper."

- Mr. Barrow, responding to a question at the NAACP forum about why all campaign ads are negative. He said Mr. Burns started it. Mr. Burns said Mr. Barrow hit him first in 2004.

UNSCIENTIFIC: City Ink polled 32 early voters last week about the mayoral and Augusta Judicial Circuit races, and the school sales-tax extension. Nineteen were women, nine white, 10 black. Thirteen were men, six white, seven black. Here are the results:

MAYOR:

- Deke Copenhaver: 62.5 percent

- Ronnie Few: 25 percent

- Steven Kendrick: 9 percent

- Gil Gilyard: 0

- Willie Mays: 3 percent (1 write-in vote)

JUDGE:

- Willie Saunders: 43.7 percent

- Bill Williams: 15.6 percent

- David Roper: 12.5 percent

- Les Wilkinson: 3 percent

- Couldn't remember who they voted for or didn't want to say: 25 percent

SALES TAX:

- Yes: 59.3 percent

- No: 25 percent

- Didn't vote or couldn't remember: 15.6 percent

The margin of error could be plus or minus anything.

VOTING FOR JESUS: During the poll-taking, I happened to call Mary Jones Riley, who, as it turned out, is 94 years old. She couldn't recall who she voted for since her children brought her a ballot and she told them to just fill it out and send it in.

Mrs. Riley said she came from "the country in 1951" from Barnwell, S.C., where she hoed, drove mules and pulled fodder.

"I didn't know anything about voting," she said. "I voted Democrat. Now I'm voting for Jesus. I think I'm still voting Democrat."

THEY'RE PASSING AWAY: "We are one generation from losing the first-hand account of some of the struggles our people have endured in this land. On last year and even in this year, the NAACP have pallbeared to the graveyard those heroes and sheroes who stood on the frontline in the second Reconstruction of these United States to guarantee that the rights that were won in the first Reconstruction were actually applied."

- The Rev. Johnson at the NAACP forum

OLD SOLDIERS: Only seven of the 20 or so remaining soldiers of Battery A, 214th Regiment of the Georgia Army National Guard were able to attend a ceremony in front of the National Guard monument on Greene Street on Thursday.

Pete Tjovaras, 88; Kasper Fulghum, 90; Roy Patch, 84; Bill Britton, 84; Junior Kicklighter, 83; Edward Moody, 89; and longtime Richmond County State Court Judge Ed Slaton, 89, were there. Bill Lewis, 87, could not attend but was waiting for his old comrades at the VFW.

The 214th Regiment was one of the first guard units to be inducted into the Army in 1940 for a year of active duty that stretched into five.

Like the old civil rights warriors, we are less than a generation from losing their first-hand account of that great struggle.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.


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