I’m writing late on October 19th to tell you that, on the eve of early voting, despite the polls, pundits, and predictions, no one knows the outcome of any of the pending elections. No one knows exactly how Obama or McCain will do in the popular or electoral vote and no one knows how Carolyn, John and myself will fare in the one remaining undecided county commission contest. But before I tell you that I need to tell you about four inspirational moments of the day: one walk and two talks and two runs.
Six weeks ago two women decided to organize a bridge walk in support of the Obama campaign. They did, and so, at noon, Julie and I found ourselves converging on a corner with a crowd ultimately estimated to be between 3,500 and 5,000. It wasn’t that long ago that comparable numbers were signing an online petition to object to renaming the Ringling bridge; but 4,000 digital signatures is nothing like 4,000 like-minded people moving forward towards a goal, whether that goal is walking across a bridge and back or electing Barack Obama. Or both. The energy contained in that group of Sarasotans was unlike anything I had experienced around here before. The newspaper makes it sound like a tee-shirt sale and estimates the crowd at half that, but it was clearly more than a tee-shirt sale and clearly more than 2,000 people.
Late in the afternoon I found myself sitting under a jacaranda, my feet scuffing a lawn and facing a group of maybe 40 neighbors south of downtown. I’ve grown weary of the sandblasted No Solicitation signs that seem to decorate so many deed-restricted developments in our county. The other week one couple offered to ‘call the cops’ when I knocked on their door (I hadn’t seen the sign). I’m sure most Americans would look askance at a foreign country if we were told their candidates were not allowed to introduce themselves to the citizenry. But there are dozens of ‘communities’ where not only political signs are banned but also the candidates themselves. So it was refreshing to address a group of neighbors that actually wanted to hear from candidates. It was democracy in action and had Norman Rockwell been alive, he might have tried to capture the moment.
Finally, there was the Democrats fundraising dinner at Michael’s on East. I’m sure you can imagine how tedious a fundraising dinner might be. And there were the obligatory name tags, the program at the place setting and the chicken. But we were graced with the presence of an American who had covered more ground than most, John Lewis, a sharecropper’s son who now represents Georgia’s fifth congressional district. Along the way he participated in the Selma to Montgomery march and spoke at the same event that featured Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech. He is living testimony to the quest for rights and a very compelling speaker. My wife and I are honored to know a man who helped Representative Lewis in his first run for Congress. Julie spoke with him about that common friend - in addition to thanking him for his service, I spoke with him about raising chickens.
Some will remember October 19th 2008 as the day the Rays made it to the World Series, leading by two runs, but for me that was just one of four memorable events. And despite its significance it was the only one of the four that I experienced vicariously, as a spectator. There is something about directly participating in democracy that is unlike anything TV can offer.
Early voting starts today and I need your help. This is your chance to directly participate in Democracy. As you may know, I’m ahead by many measures of campaigns – newspaper endorsements, days campaigning, number of contributors, dollars raised, blog entries read (over 1.500 now), etc. But I hope, we hope, that none of that matters in our system of government – what matters is the number of votes. Whether you are a regular blog reader of mine or this is your first visit; please send a link to your friends and neighbors, telling them about my candidacy and encouraging them to vote for me.
Tell them three major newspapers in the County find me to be the most qualified. Tell them I am the most committed to communicating with the public. Tell them to do their own research. Tell them about whatever you find compelling (see the poll in the upper right hand corner of the blog). But tell them to vote.