Major political players take time to party with the parties

Every Democrat who's any Democrat in this area was at the Richmond County Democratic Party's barbecue and Get Out the Vote Rally at the Henry Brigham Center gym Thursday.

There were some from out of town, too, including Judge Glenda Hatchett of the Judge Hatchett TV show, whose appearance caused quite a stir.

Joe the Plumber even showed up. So did Charles the Plumber and Jimmy the Plumber.

"THIS MAMA IS FOR OBAMA": An enthusiastic crowd of about 450 in the red-white-and-blue bedecked gym cheered as the speakers delivered the message to get out the vote for Barack Obama, U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin, 12th District U.S. Rep. John Barrow, 10th Congressional District challenger Bobby Saxon, 22nd District state Sen. Ed Tarver and 23rd District state Sen. J.B. Powell .

Mr. Tarver was on cue when he reminded them to not just vote the first part of the ballot but to go all the way to his race toward the end. Mr. Powell said he and Mr. Barrow had been through tougher political campaigns together than anybody there.

"But I always tell 'em, 'When you're rasslin' a pig, always remember that when it gets muddy, the old pig likes it that way,' " he said. "So me and John kind of wish they'd bring a little smoke, bring some heat, but they can't find nothing to do but show up every two years and tell you how great they are."

Mr. Barrow said he couldn't tell stories the way Mr. Powell could, but he told one anyway that he said Oklahoma congressman Dan Boren told him about a Republican congressman who visited a tribal area.

Because the Republican and the tribesmen didn't speak the same language, he just started saying words. First he said, "deregulation," and the tribesmen threw up their hands and said, "Gumwah!" Then he said, "Tax cuts for the rich," and the tribesmen threw up their hands and said, "Gumwah!" Then he said, "No child left behind," and they again threw up their hands and said, "Gumwah!"

As the elder of the tribe was escorting the Republican out, he told the congressman he was taking him down a path to where the horses were kept so he could give him the pony he'd promised.

"But don't step in any of the gumwah," he warned.

AUGUSTA'S REAL JOE THE PLUMBER: Joe the Plumber, aka Joe D. Ellis , the representative for the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 150, brought down the house when he said, "I'm like the rest of you. I draw a weekly paycheck. I don't have no $250,000 to buy no business. Not only that, I'm going to vote for Barack Obama."

Mr. Ellis was sitting at a table with Charles Hardigree the Plumber and Jimmy McWatty the Plumber before the speechifying began, and I asked him what he'd ask Mr. Obama if he met him, and he said, "Could I have the plumbing job at the White House that McCain offered the fake Joe the Plumber? And I have a license."

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE: The Democrats weren't the only ones working to get out the vote last week. Republican candidates were holding fundraisers throughout the area.

A dozen Richmond and Columbia county elected officials held a fundraiser for 10th District U.S. Rep. Paul Broun at the Pinnacle Club. Mr. Broun told the crowd their donations would pay for television time in Augusta, so they would have an investment in the ads they saw, which led someone in the crowd to say, "That's better than investing in AIG."

Mr. Broun asked 12th Congressional District candidate John Stone to step forward, then he asked those assembled to support Mr. Stone also.

"I hope you'll write two checks," Mr. Broun said. "But if you only write one, write it for me."

Also last week, the Committee to Elect John Stone held a Georgia Delegation Round-up at McKinney's Pond in Midville, and Gov. Sonny Perdue and a long list of Republicans held a fundraiser for Napoleon Jenkins , challenger to Mr. Powell.

INTO THE LOOKING GLASS: In non-election news, City Administrator Fred Russell presented commissioners with his 2009 general-fund budget proposal last week, which includes a tax increase and more than $3 million in cuts to some of their favorite programs, which are almost too numerous to mention.

The fun starts Thursday when commissioners start talking about eliminating the Richmond County Human Relations Commission, the James Brown exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History and the summer youth employment program. But tell me truly, do you think commissioners are actually going to cut $788,500 from recreation, $527,000 from public works and almost a quarter-million from more than a dozen nonprofit agencies?

Fred will just have to pull another rabbit from the hat.

NOBODY KNOWS WHAT GOES ON BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: And that's too bad, because nobody's talking about much of anything publicly in Augusta Commission meetings. It's all being talked about in legal meetings. But last week's legal meeting ended abruptly a few minutes after it started in a dispute over the latest bids for the Webster Detention Center.

Some commissioners are angry that the project was rebid on the advice of city attorney Chiquita Johnson, who didn't tell them they could have accepted McKnight Construction Co.'s earlier low bid. Their first bid was thrown out because they had not included some document. The next lowest bidder, R.W. Allen & Associates, whose bid package turned out not to be perfect either, had submitted a bid almost $2 million higher than McKnight's. So McKnight sued and got a restraining order to keep commissioners from awarding the bid to Allen.

Anyway, the latest bids have been opened, and McKnight is once again the low bidder with a $26.8 million bid, $32,490 higher than their first one.

MISUNDERSTOOD AND DISILLUSIONED: Coliseum authority Chairman Richard Isdell and member Donnie Thompson attended last week's zoning board meeting hoping to keep the board from granting a variance that will allow Golden Harvest Food Bank to build a soup kitchen on Fenwick Street next to the civic center's parking lot, but the board was unsympathetic and granted the variance unanimously.

Mr. Thompson said he was hoping the authority could help them build the soup kitchen somewhere else, but he's through talking about it.

"There's no use talking about it anymore," he said. "Anybody that says anything about it is perceived as being against the poor. At this point, we're just going to be a good neighbor to them."

Authority member Keith Brown said Mr. Isdell and Mr. Thompson did not have the full board's approval to go before the zoning board. So expect that subject to come up at Tuesday's authority meeting.

CAP THIS: Last week, I told you about all the medicine I have to give our dogs every day and how I put it in weenie pieces and then forget which piece goes to which dog and just take them myself.

Well, Wayne Matthews called to tell me about what happened to him about a year and a half ago. He said he has three dogs who are his only family, and that he had been giving them the flea preventative Capstar.

"I had two of the Capstars out on the counter, and I went by that afternoon and thought, 'Oh, I forgot to take my blood pressure medicine,' and I took them," he said. "Then I got to looking around and realized what I'd done. I called the poison control center, and they'd never heard of Capstar, so she called somebody else and they'd never heard of it either, and I could hear them calling somebody else who didn't know either. She told me to stay home a couple of hours to see what happened.

"A few days later she called and asked how I was. I said, 'Everything's fine, but every time I pass a fire hydrant I cock my leg, and I have no fleas whatsoever.' "

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

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