Campaign volunteers vital to election success

By Thomas Wilson

   They come bearing placards, pencils, and laminated index cards with their candidate's name.
   Campaign volunteers staffed Carter County polling places on Election Day last Thursday, battling oppressive heat to tout their candidates as the next sheriff, county commissioner or state representative.
   "I started at five after 8 a.m. this morning," said Joy Reeser, who camped out at Happy Valley High School on Election Day to campaign for Register of Deeds incumbent Johnny Holder. "My daughter works for him, we go to church with him, and we've known him for a long time."
   Election Day's uncomfortable heat temperatures above 90 and a blazing sun kept most volunteers under the nearest shade or under umbrellas.
   Campaign volunteers are comprised of relatives and friends dedicated to seeing their candidate win or at least make a good showing.
   Volunteer Alice Cloyd spent Thursday campaigning 5th District constable candidate Charlotte Walker at Happy Valley Elementary School (HVES). Walker lost her bid for constable as well.
   "We've had a great time. We've met a lot of people, some friendly, some not," said Cloyd, one of several volunteers clad in Charlotte Walker T-shirts at HVES. "You wouldn't do this for just anyone with a heat index of 97 degrees."
   Jessica Tester spent the day campaigning for her husband, Richard Tester, in his bid to become 7th District county commissioner.
   "I've met so many people today who are really great and down-to-earth," said Tester. "I do hope he wins."
   He did. Tester led all 7th District candidates in total votes, according to unofficial election results.
   Eddie Roberts campaigned with supporters at Happy Valley High with placard ready and a polite handshake and request for support from voters.
   "He's a good friend of mine," said Jim Birchfield, a Roberts supporter who spent the day with Roberts. "He'll do a good job because if he tells you something he'll stand behind it."
   Roberts knows the routine. He served as county commissioner from 1990 to 1994 representing the Gap Creek precinct. He was one of five candidates seeking to win a commission seat from the 7th District.
   Alas, Roberts would not win a second commission term in this election. Unofficial voting results had him finishing behind ousted incumbent Sidney Cox, who finished fourth.
   The tone of campaigning -- and the public's response -- had changed significantly since his first term, said Roberts.
   "Elections aren't like they used to be. People ain't as friendly as they used to be," he said.
   Besides belligerent people, volunteers can meet other obstacles while campaigning.
   Nancy Broyles, a retired HVES teacher who campaigned for Commissioner JoAnn Blankenship on Tuesday, said she had dealt with citizens and others who apparently were not interested in hearing the merits of the candidate she was supporting.
   "I'll never forget this one time I went to this house and this dog had grabbed my pant leg. This woman said 'the dog doesn't bite,'" said Broyles. "I said 'Ma'am, what do you call this?'"
   Broyles said she and her family had been active in the Happy Valley and Carter County community for many years. She noted that the past outlook of "knowing all your neighbors" common to the county's small communities had diminished as the county began to change.
   "You can tell times are changing," she said. "We used to know everybody here in this community, but it's like a melting pot anymore."