Tuesday, April 27, 2010

27 APR 10: Now Entering the Ring

What do you know - not all Georgia state offices were closed Monday after all. The Secretary of State's office was open in Atlanta, and it had plenty of visitors. Of course, that could have been because political junkies had nowhere else to go....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Qualifying week opened Monday for Democrats and Republicans seeking political office in Georgia. And you may be surprised to learn a local wrestling coach filed to run for Congress. Beware this candidate's briefcase - it could be loaded with something other than brochures.

Frank Saunders is the head wrestling coach at Chattahoochee County High School. But he lives in Midland, which puts him in Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's district -- and also leads me to think one of his big campaign issues will be lowering the cost of gasoline.

"Most people don't even know who their Congressman is," Frank Saunders told your blog Monday night in his first campaign interview. He's really not in a position to teach high school students that detail, either. Saunders teaches special education and mathematics - but if he's elected, his skills with negative numbers will come in handy at budget time.

(Saunders does NOT teach Latin. The campaign web site he's developing simply looks for the moment like he does....)

Since Frank Saunders is a teacher, he's obviously making education a main campaign issue. He suggested Rep. Lynn Westmoreland wants to eliminate the federal Department of Education, and privatize schools. You certainly don't hear about teachers taking no-confidence votes at Brookstone School.

Frank Saunders says it seems like "everybody is blaming education" for our national problems. He rejects the calls for mass firings of teachers, and claims school districts are doing that to "hire them back for less money." Of course, some would say that approach has kept United Airlines in business....

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland "seems like he wants to cut everything," Frank Saunders told me. Well, yeah - the incumbent is a Republican. If not for worried mothers, Republicans would be running with scissors all over Washington.

On the other hand, Frank Saunders supports more funding for "green jobs" such as wind and solar power. And on top of that: "We need more troops. How's that for a Democrat?" Saunders may be a first-time candidate, but he must be getting good coaching from Rep. Sanford Bishop's staff.

Frank Saunders explained his years in Chattahoochee County schools have shown him Fort Benning families can be strained by multiple deployments overseas. He says if the U.S. is serious about fighting terrorism, it needs a larger military -- and we now know it should be at least 82,000 acres larger.

Some people might know Frank Saunders as something other than a wrestling coach and a teacher. He's played rock music at local events such as the old God Bless Fort Benning. So I suppose a term in Congress would complete a strange kind of career grand slam....

"I spent the first part of my life trying to be Bob Dylan," Frank Saunders told me. He wrote political songs such as one against the American Medical Association called "Fast Food Slow Death." I suppose that beats the alternative - waiting 45 minutes for a lamb chop which gets stuck in your throat.

Frank Saunders is pleased health care reform will require restaurant chains to post the calorie counts of their food. I should have asked how certain chains are going to accomplish that. Consider Sonic Drive-Ins, with menu boards on either side of your car. Either those boards will have to become much larger, or you'll need a magnifying glass to read the calorie numbers.

Frank Saunders says the Chattahoochee County School Superintendent gave him permission to run for Congress. He won't have to take a sabbatical from teaching to campaign. But Saunders probably will need someone to mow his lawn this summer - because he'll need to be on the road every weekend.

Frank Saunders doesn't expect any Democratic opposition in the Georgia primary. But he's not afraid of bucking what some political watchers consider a year for big Republican mid-term gains. Saunders hopes people will "listen to my message, and not the D beside my name." He believes that letter does NOT stand for a doomed democracy.

Given his background, I was ready to consider Frank Saunders one of those "fill-the ballot" candidates. But after talking to him, this high school teacher sounds serious about what he's doing. And since Saunders coaches wrestlers, he certainly knows how to twist people's arms.

Another Muscogee County political newcomer qualified for Congress Monday. Medical supply company owner Rick Allen is running as a Republican against Rep. Sanford Bishop. I didn't have to check online to know Bishop is seeking reelection - because he sent a Congressional newsletter to my mailbox.

The strangest campaign story Monday involved a candidate who was barred from the ballot. Republican Party leaders refused to let Roy Boyd file for Governor, because he refused to sign a party loyalty oath. I thought Republicans were supposed to be the people who trust the private sector -- while opposing unnecessary extra layers of bureaucracy.

-> Some days at the poker table are better than others. Read about one extreme at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Monday's visit to one flag made a reader think about another....

Hey Richard. Your mentioning of the old state flag with the Confederate "Battle Jack" on it along Hwy. 520 brought to my memory of the "real" Confederate flag that flies everyday on a pole at the corner of Talbotton Rd. and 12th St. in front of Buck Ice & Coal. No one ever mentions or notices it because it is the "real" flag not the one associated with all the controversy. Ride by there and check it out. It's been there for years! Larry

Yes, I'm aware of that flag. In fact, we mentioned it here on Confederate Memorial Day last year [27 Apr 09] -- the flag which properly should be called the "stars and bars." Nowadays, that phrase tends to be the job assignment for Hollywood photographers.

Let's see what else made news on Confederate Memorial Day - and I had to spell "Confederate" for a local library employee, because she was unfamiliar with the word:

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to eliminate five class days and ten work days from the next school year. By doing this now, administrators have more than 11 months to turn this problem into a CRCT math question.

+ Phenix City Police arrested two people on charges of stealing construction materials from the new Smiths Station High School. If the lesson isn't clear by now, here it is - try to sell hot copper, and the coppers will be hot on your trail.

.+ The Troup County Sheriff's Department announced it's creating a text-alert system for possible emergencies. Well, OK - but they'd better not text me while I'm driving, or they might wind up sending extra messages due to crashes.

+ Columbus and Phenix City leaders officially announced plans for downtown whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee River. WRBL reported once "Ready 2 Raft 2012" work is finished, an estimated 188,000 visitors will come here for rafting each year. Buy your vending machines with air hoses now, before everybody else has one.

+ Authorities reported 127 drunk driving tickets were issued at Talladega during the NASCAR weekend. The way the race finished, Jeff Gordon probably wants Jimmie Johnson's breath checked next weekend.

+ Country music star Taylor Swift gave a surprise performance at Auburn University. It was the end of an online campaign by two students who wanted Swift to give them a hug. After failing to win anything at the Academy of Country Music Awards, Swift needed to start her career comeback somewhere.

+ Instant Message to Kendrick High School baseball coach Michael Peek: I don't know who your pitcher was in Monday's loss to Troup County. But I think he should have been your catcher - because he was about as big as some playground backstops.

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