Candidates say benefits outweigh hardships on campaign trail

Published 12:31 am Sunday, July 31, 2011

NATCHEZ — At least a few county residents have yet to meet a campaigning candidate they can tolerate for even a second.

And when candidates meet these new faces, well, they just run away.

“I went to a house a couple of weeks ago, and I went to knock on the door, and I heard a dog start barking,” District 3 supervisor candidate Wilbert Whittley said. “I kept backing away and the dog kept coming.

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“I kept backing away, and the dog kept coming.”

It’s a tale too many on the trail can share, for sure.

“I’m afraid to death of dogs,” said Angela Hutchins, who is also vying for the District 3 seat.

“I was out campaigning one day, and a dog came out of a house. The dog came out and was barking, and I ended up in the back of a man’s truck calling for help.”

Even those with experience going door-to-door asking for votes experience trouble with the four-legged residents.

Incumbent Coroner James E. Lee said he was almost bitten by a bulldog.

“I was walking up under a carport, and I just didn’t see it,” he said. “I just walked up on a big bulldog. There’s no leash law in the county like there is in the city.”

District 3 supervisor candidate Raythell Smith has walked the same neighborhoods three previous times and has a bit of advice for his counterparts.

“What I do, since I’m accustomed to campaigning, is look out for them,” he said, referring to dogs. “I reversed my trail prior to getting to a dog a few times, and I was able to get back to my car before the dog was able to get back to me. There were several residences where I had to leave my literature in different locations to keep from having that type of incident.”

But dogs aren’t the only thing that has made the last three months or so hard for those seeking your support on Election Day.

Temperatures in the 90s, long walks and a seemingly endless number of people to meet makes campaign season hard, the candidates said.

With no incumbent running in district 3, the candidates seized the opportunity to make their face known.

Whittley said he’s been going out four days per week since May. He usually starts going door to door at approximately 6:30 p.m. and stays out until close to 8 p.m., he said.

“(This was) my first time doing it, so it was a learning experience for me,” Whittley said. “You take in those suggestions, but ultimately, doing it your way, you feel better about it.”

Every day, except days that it’s rained, Hutchins has been out in the streets campaigning, she said, for at least four hours a day.

And being new at the campaigning game made her want to hit the trail harder, she said.

“I wanted to get to know the people who didn’t know me,” she said. “It’s been great (campaigning), because I like people, and I like to get to know people.”

Voters are typically happy to talk with candidates too, the candidates said, unless, of course, you sneak up on them.

Coroner candidate Bill Hinson said his funniest moment of the campaign wasn’t so funny at first.

“I was walking up to a door, and there was a lady hanging something on the wall there in her (front room), and she saw me and let out a horrible scream,” he said. “I put up my hands, and I said, ‘No, no, no, lady, it’s me, Bill Hinson, I’m just campaigning!’ and then I got up to the door and realized it was somebody I knew.”

For those who decide to run for office and give it their all, the work doesn’t end until Election Day comes, just ask Lee who found himself campaigning on his birthday — the first time he’s had to do that in his 16 years as coroner.

“I plan to (have cake) after Tuesday,” he said, referring to Election Day.

Despite the hard work, Smith said nothing can replace the experience and advantages of meeting the electorate face to face.

“Everyone has the same opportunity, whether you’re out there for the first time or whether you’re out there for the fourth time,” he said. “There’s the same opportunity to present yourself to that voter and give your background to that voter, and you give them the same opportunity to express to you their concerns and their needs and their expectations.

“It doesn’t take a lot of time running for office to build that type of rapport.”

County elections are Tuesday.