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Epilogue

11/07/2013

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Results are in, and we could close with one hard fact:  his 346 votes beats my 274 votes.  But, the philosopher in me searches not for the meaning of life, but for meaning in life.  And, the writer in me compels me to share those thoughts -- if for no other reason than to make them clearer to myself.

This race was not about me or Chris Smith.  I said from the start, this was a referendum on the future of our community.  When I said in my video "my opponent represents those who want to keep things just as they are," that was the crux of the issue.  As evidence, I offer this comment posted online yesterday to the Covington News under the username wwstick:
The "New vision" for Covington and Newton County by the, as one activist calls them Carpetbagers, [sic] is not what the citizens want. It is a truth at this point as noted by the results of this election, that citizens want a hands off policy on our community.  If you 'carpetbaggers' dont [sic]like what we have there are about 6000 other counties they can move to and try to change. As Gene Wilder so eloquently stated in the movie "The Frisco Kid", "I'll tell you what I think is the best thing. I'll take San Francisco. You take the rest of America. And if you ever come back to this place again, I don't think you're going to get off so easy. Now get the h*** out of here!".
I could argue 274 voters want something more than the status quo.  And, wwstick could counter 346 voters do not.  In the days when leaders were statesmen, the victor represented all the people.  But, in the slash-and-burn world of 21st century American politics, it's winner take all and loser take a hike.

But, I'm not interested in arguing with Mr. (or Ms.) wwstick.  I'm interested in sharing these observations.

If yours is among the 346 votes cast for Chris Smith -- and you truly believe his vision and approach are best for Covington -- then good for you and good for democracy.  I disagree with you, but you voted the way you believed, and I honor that.

But, if you sided with him for reasons other than the merits of his experience, vision, and approach relative to mine, your vote is still taken as a mandate by those who will forever fight anything that smacks of change or progress in Newton County.  It's hard to choose, when you know a candidate personally or you've been friends with his family.  But, we should recognize these choices have consequences far beyond familial or social relationships.

Regardless of the reason, Chris Smith didn't articulate a platform, refused to engage in a forum on the issues, and would not answer written questions from the newspaper.  Losing was always a possibility for me, and I came into this race ready and willing to see my qualifications, vision, and platform rejected.  What I was never ready for was seeing an electorate embrace a campaign offering none of these for inspection.

Of course, the greatest enablers are the 2,592 active registered voters (81%) who couldn't be bothered to weigh in at all.  With their silence, they've given tacit approval to those like wwstick who just want the rest of us to "get the h*** out of here."

Chances are most people reading this blog either voted for me or were not eligible to vote here.  I can also fully understand if anyone else reads this as sour grapes on my part.  It's not, I promise you.  But, I understand if you think so.

I'm concerned what this outcome means for our community because -- despite what wwstick and others believe -- I care about its past, its present, and its future.  I believe in the democratic principles that I have an equal right to seek change in the actions of my elected officials and a duty to offer myself for service.  The idea that stepping up to run for office is somehow a personal affront to the other candidate or an offense against a segment of the population is a perverse notion of what our democratic process is about.  It's sad and it's scary.

To my friends and supporters, I appreciate the encouragement to keep my head high and not give up.  I hear talk about trying again.  But the simple fact is that I already did all that I could.  Many courageous folks stood with me, but it was not yet enough in this time and this place.  It's going to take much more than one man and one campaign to change a mindset like the one articulated in the comment above.

As unpleasant as it is for those of us who strive for balance and an open mind, the battle lines are drawn.  And, those who support the status quo aren't giving up without a nasty fight.  It is today as it's always been.  Niccolo Machiavelli described it best when he wrote The Prince in the early 1500s:
"It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order."
I'm proud of what we stood for and how we approached it.  I'm grateful and honored by all who stood with me.  You were anything but lukewarm.  But, it's going to require many more of us who are willing to undertake difficult journeys "doubtful of success" and "dangerous to handle."  The belief it should not be so does not erase the fact that it is.

I was willing to take this journey.  I'm proud of the campaign we put forth and the dignity and enthusiasm displayed by so many of you.  But, for now, I'm tired.  It's time for a break.
 


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