Thursday, August 12, 2010

John Waltz Takes His Campaign to the People of Kentucky-4

As politicians go, John Waltz is both progressive and a throwback. The Democratic challenger bent on taking Geoff Davis’ congressional seat is a forward-thinking guy with a refreshingly old-school campaign style. He’s barnstorming – traveling the countryside and talking directly with voters he finds along the way, visiting all 24 counties in his district.

We’ve all seen campaign tour stops before, but Waltz’s barnstorm is no choreographed string of photo ops. This tour is pretty much like the man and his campaign – direct, no-nonsense, and a tad unconventional. "I made a commitment when I began this campaign to do things properly. I thought, as Elvis said, we need a little less talk and a lot more action," begins the email Waltz sent to supporters announcing the tour. "Anyone can sit up there in their Washington office talking a big game. It takes some work and care to hit the streets and talk to the people you represent."

Waltz’s barnstorm can be viewed either as a foolish stunt by a political dilettante or a stroke of stroke of genius. Is it really smart to spend so much time engaged in personal appearances that won’t excite the media instead of raising funds for what is likely to be a tough battle against Republican incumbent Geoff Davis? Even Waltz acknowledges the risks.
Now I need your help. During this tour, I am focusing on listening to folks across the district. Keeping up with Geoff Davis is hard when I cannot spend time fundraising. Please support the tour by giving $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, or whatever you can today.

I am going off the political grid. There are no stadium tours. I am going where regular people live, pray, eat, and work. Many people are surprised a candidate would travel to their town. I am surprised they have gotten so used to being ignored.

And it is there, in the last two sentences of that quote, that we find the genius of Waltz’s gutsy move. The people of Kentucky’s Fourth District are surprised to find that a man seeking their vote to send him to Congress would show up in their small towns rather than conducting rallies in more populated places. It’s something his opponent hasn’t done, something Waltz hammered home in the email.
The tour is driven by one simple idea - if every voter met both Geoff Davis and me, I don’t think Davis would get a single vote other than his own.

Geoff Davis will try to hide behind his tax-payer funded mailings and a few token appearances, but I will be traveling this district thanks to your support.

Voters who get a chance to talk with John Waltz will meet some who, as I’ve previously written, is energetic, aggressive, and very much concerned with the welfare of the people he wants to represent. "I’ve been a progressive Democrat all my life,” he told me in a recent interview. "I was raised in a union family, and I was taught the Democrats, plain and simple, were to stick up for hardworking Americans."

Waltz told me about some of the things voters have been telling him they are concerned about the most. "One of the big things is jobs and employment and growth. Here in our district, we’re seeing anywhere from 10 to 18% unemployment, and they’re looking for answers and some of the big things we talk about is, obviously, small business. We gotta find a way to make it easier for small businesses to get loans but also provide tax credits for every person they hire."

I was also curious to hear about how voters in Kentucky-4 felt about the health care reform law, much vilified by Republicans before and ever since its passage.

"I think, quite honestly, most people are confused. I mean, they hear more of the [Republican] propaganda than anything else, but once we’re able to actually sit down and try to explain to them, they understand it a lot better."

This is the crux of John Waltz’s vision of what a congressman is and what a congressman should be doing – getting out among the people, eating with them, listening to them, and answering their questions. If you need proof of his commitment, this tour should fill that need. His idea of a grassroots campaign is one where he carries the grass seed bag on his shoulder and plants it himself, one yard at a time, on foot.

And if you wonder if that commitment will last past the election, I’ll just tell you what he told me: "We’re gonna be working hard, every day, not just in the campaign, but when we get to
Washington as well."

I believe him.

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