Years ago, when I grew up in New York City, the general attitude toward politics was “you can’t fight city all.” The mayor and the city council were far away, and besides they never listened to ordinary people anyway.
When, however, I moved to a suburb outside Rochester, New York, the attitude was different. Now one of my buddies ran for the board of education and won. He had no particular political connections; just a desire to make sure his children were well-educated.
As for me, I found that when my town planned to rezone a property adjacent to mine, the zoning board not only listened to my complaint; they changed their minds. This was an eye-opener and forever altered my attitude toward politics.
Having since moved into the suburbs of Atlanta, my political education has continued. As a professor whose original department at Kennesaw State University consisted of both sociologists and political scientists, I learned a great deal from my colleagues.
One unexpected lesson came from a friend who decided to run for Congress. I knew her and knew she was for real. I also knew that Newt Gingrich had been successful in a similar effort just a few years before. She might have won—she didn’t—but she put up a good fight.
Since then several people have consulted me about their political strategies. Apparently having been impressed by some of my ideas as expressed in the Marietta Daily Journal, they hoped that I might be of assistance.
One of these people has been JoEllen Smith. She is currently seeking a first term in the Georgia State House. While I am not prepared to endorse her officially (because I do not know her opponent first hand), I am prepared to share the fact that she has impressed me.
The first thing I noticed when we talked is how intelligent she is. As an educator, something like that immediately grabs my attention. The next thing I realized was how passionate she is about educational issues. Once again, as an educator, this matters to me.
More recently, I have been impressed by the campaign she is running. Actively seeking to meet her constituents, she has also made brilliant use of the Internet. Her insightful analyses of the issues at hand have been pithy and to the point.
All of this leaves me very pleased with our democratic institutions. When a concerned citizen, on her own hook, can decide to enter the fray—and can have a decent chance to win, that tells me that our representative conventions are working. Ordinary people really do have a chance to be heard.
So good luck JoEllen! And if you win, I hope your voice—and your vote—will make a difference in bringing our state to a new level.