Political forums are good political theater, and the actors get better with every rehearsal.
It’s just a shame they play mostly to an audience that already knows who it will nominate for an Academy Award on Election Day.
Such was the case at two forums last week – the Republican 12th Congressional District forum Saturday, sponsored by the Greater Columbia County Republican Women, and the 100 Black Women of Augusta’s forum for Richmond County sheriff’s candidates Thursday.
At Saturday’s forum in Evans, author and political consultant Phil Kent, the moderator, told the candidates they’d be given two minutes to introduce themselves, after which he would ask them a few questions, followed by questions from a panel and the audience. He posed his first question to state Rep. Lee Anderson. It was about an answer Anderson gave at a forum in Statesboro about the Federal Reserve which sounded like he didn’t know the difference between reserve funds and the Federal Reserve.
“I’m glad to answer the question, but I thought we were supposed to have a two-minute introduction,” Anderson drawled.
“You’re absolutely right,” Kent said. “We’ll start with you.”
“I’m fed up just like you’re fed up,” Anderson began. “I’m fed up with Obama and John Barrow spending all our money. A president and a congressman who want to force the highest tax increase in American history down our throat, called health care reform. It’s time to send a businessman and a farmer to Congress to straighten out the mess. … It’s nothing fancy about me. I’m not a show horse. I’m a workhorse. But I get the job done.”
Wright McLeod, a former Navy pilot, said he believed in the Constitution and that when he was young all he ever wanted to do was join the military.
Rick Allen said he didn’t believe in centralized government and that the November election is the most important in the history of the nation.
Maria Sheffield said she believed every department of government should be audited annually, so everyone would know exactly what they’re doing.
All four, who hope to win the July 31 primary and go on to defeat Barrow in November, said they’d work to repeal “Obamacare.”
“Pretty soon, we’re going to have a tax if we don’t have an electric car,” Allen said. “This law must be stopped. Send John Barrow back to where he’s from and Obama back from wherever he’s from.”
TOUCHE: To a question about what they’d do to reign in unnecessary entitlement spending, waste, fraud and abuse, McLeod said, “I know. You know. We all know that the biggest threat to our nation is spending. One of my opponents talks like he’s willing to cut spending, but at the same time, he’s the recipient of stimulus money. That is wrong.”
“Which opponent is that?” Kent asked.
“Let me be very, very clear,” McLeod responded. “There’s nothing illegal about it. He just won those contracts. He won them fairly. He was probably the low bidder or best provider or whatever the criteria was. But that’s stimulus money. That’s my money. That’s your money. That’s wrong.”
After the applause from McCleod’s supporters waned, Allen said, “Let me just say that as I understand right now, Wright’s in the real-estate business, and you’re closing mortgages every day. That’s how you put food on the table. Well, guess who’s buying all those mortgages in the country? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So I rest my case.”
IT TAKES RESPONSIBLE PARENTS, NOT A VILLAGE: At Thursday’s sheriff candidates’ forum at Diamond Lakes Community center, three of the candidates were asked, “What is your plan to stop the high number of murders in Richmond County?”
Lt. Robbie Silas said targeting youths and educating them on the consequences of those “significant crimes.”
Lt. Richard Roundtree said there’s a direct correlation between a lack of education and violent crime.
Capt. Scott Peebles said he’d use a two-pronged process: get involved with at-risk youth and get guns off the street through undercover operations such as Operation Smoke Screen and Fox Hunt, which resulted in a 40 percent drop in aggravated assaults.
The best answer to the question wasn’t given at that forum but at Saturday’s forum by Allen in response to a question about education.
“The first thing we’ve got to do is reinvent the family,” he said. “The family is in trouble in this country. That’s why the kids are in trouble. The family is the greatest economic engine ever created in this country, and this government is devastating the family.”
THE BELL TOLLED THE END OF AN ERA: The Augusta State University community gathered on the center campus Friday to say goodbye to President William A. Bloodworth Jr. as the school’s bell tolled the end of his 19-year tenure leading the school.
“It was very touching,” he said. “Then I said goodbye to my staff. It was a little sad.”
The night before, hundreds crowded Sacred Heart Cultural Center to celebrate his retirement with gifts, tributes, song and a $115,395 check for a scholarship in his name.
It’s been a distinguished career, one he never planned for or imagined.
“I had a single mother who had an eighth-grade education,” he said. “We lived in San Antonio and moved around a lot. I never saw this. I don’t think that’s the way anything happens. You end up in places you never thought you’d be.”
When he decided it was time to step down last year after 18 years and become a professor again, he thought he’d be leaving the office in the hands of another permanent president.
“But it didn’t work out that way,” he said.
Instead, as everyone knows, the Georgia Board of Regents decided to consolidate ASU and Georgia Health Sciences University, a union that won’t go into effect until January.
“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I’m going to make the transition from president to professor. It’s a little isolating. But teaching is exciting. I feel blessed to have a career for a few more years.
“I really do not think I will work less, but I will be more focused,” he said. “Being a college president is multitasking on steroids. You don’t know what you’re going to be dealing with.”
During the Jennifer Keeton controversy, he received 40,000 e-mails in one day from her supporters across the country. The graduate student sued the school in 2010, alleging that a requirement to read material about homosexuals and increase her exposure to them after saying she’d tell gay clients their behavior is morally wrong violated her First Amendment rights.
When Bloodworth came to Augusta in 1993, the ASU campus was a horrible-looking place, with arsenal buildings built in 1941. Then in June 1997, the Board of Regents agreed to replace six old buildings, known as “the six-pack,” with two modern ones. The school also got federal money for the History Walk. The University Village Apartments were developed for student housing. And ASU finally got a decent student center, the Jaguar Student Activities Center.
“We added academic programs, grew enrollment and had success in basketball and golf and created a women’s intercollegiate golf team,” Bloodworth said.
Leaders have a strong desire to lead and get things done, and it is difficult to stop and listen to others, he said.
“I hope along the way I’ve learned to listen to faculty and staff, and make decisions based on the advice of others.”