I don’t make a habit of talking to politicians when they are running for office, but I was saddened and disappointed when I read a childish temper-tantrum of an editorial in Sunday’s Times Free Press. Bearing the headline, “Anyone But Mayfield,” the writer skewed Congressional candidate Scottie Mayfield because – of all things – Scottie wouldn’t be part of the newspaper’s little dog-and-pony show where the candidates go before the editorial board and grovel for endorsement.
I know exactly why he didn’t do it. If you’ll go back in newspaper archives and look at any major candidate for the past three months, an age of what is called “gotcha’ journalism” has such a grip on today’s reporters they’ll take the dumbest thing any Republican or Democrat hopeful says – just a snippet of the whole message – and pounce on it for pure sensationalism.
Seriously, responsible reporting is as out of whack as Congress right now and Scottie Mayfield, rather than lend himself to such a paltry standard, has instead campaigned door-to-door and house-to-house. I’m on record as voting for him on the very first day of early voting and when I called him to tell him how sorry I was about what the Times Free Press did to him on Sunday, it turned into a long conversation that left me so proud of a long-time friend.
I hadn’t planned to write about it but, about five minutes into our visit, I asked him if he’d mind being quoted and he laughed, saying, “You know I trust you. Ask me about anything and I’ll tell you.”
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST THING YOU’VE LEARNED ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL?
“Actually, there are two things. First, more people are more concerned about our country today than I first imagined. I had a grandmother walk up to me with a two-year-old in her arms. She looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Don’t you lie to me. My life’s about done but this one I am holding is just beginning.’ I told her she had my solemn vow that I will never vote for a bill that isn’t good for the American people.
“No lobbyist, not party politics, nothing will sway me from doing what I believe is the right thing for the all of the American people. I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my life and one of my favorites came one day when I sat in on a purchasing meeting, just to listen.
“We had a guy in charge of our buying who felt like we did when it came to the highest quality we could find. He was talking to a pecan salesman. They talked for 45 minutes and struck a deal. The salesman wasn’t gone 30 seconds before I shut the door and told our buyer, ‘I can’t believe you never asked the price!’ Our buyer looked back at me, smiled, and told me, “Scottie, if the pecans aren’t good, then the price doesn’t matter.’
“I can’t tell you how many times we could have done this or that, just for the bottom line. We tried to save every way we could but our bottom line was this: if the pecans aren’t good the price doesn’t matter. It’s time to do that in Washington.”
WHAT IS THE OTHER BIG THING YOU’VE LEARNED?
“Just about everywhere I’ve been, the people have wanted to know, ‘If you get to Washington, are you going to turn into one of them?’ Believe it or not, that’s tough to answer when you really think about it. Seriously, it is kind of like asking if something catastrophic happened to your family, what would you do? The real truth is you don’t really know until you get there.
“I want very badly to represent the people in our district in a way that will be honorable, responsible and positive. I have never worried about sacrificing principles and values because I pray that will never happen. If I get elected, I plan on still being Scottie Mayfield, and like that grandmother who told me not to lie to her, I have a two-year-old grandchild and another on the way. We’ve got to leave this country better than what it was where we first got here. And I promise I’ll never vote for a bill that I personally believe isn’t good for the American people.”
HAS CAMPAIGNING FOR CONGRESS BEEN HARD?
“Actually it has been one of the most fun things my family has ever done. We have had more fun meeting people, talking to people, listening to people’s ideas. For instance, I had a hard-set obligation in the middle of the campaign … I had to be gone for three days on dairy business … so my wife spoke three times in my place. I could trust her to say what I would.
“The minute I got back our folks told me it wasn’t a second too soon, that if Lisa made one more speech we ought to let her run for office instead of me! I had no idea my entire family would be so passionate about this and, I guess if I had it to say, my family has turned this whole dream of doing something for my country into a wonderful experience.”
WHAT ABOUT THIS THURSDAY ON ELECTION DAY?
“I’m going to shake hands and ask for votes all day. I personally have given out 50,000 cards and, if they all vote for me, I’ll win! Lisa and I have already voted. Ever since we had a child born on the 13th day of the month, that number’s been lucky for us so we voted early on the 13th. I plan to work hard all day talking to as many people as I can. Then there is a favorite restaurant of ours in Athens where we’ll have dessert for everybody and watch the returns.
“I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience so far. The fact so many people are concerned and eager to get our country back on its feet is thrilling for me. To be part of fixing a broken Washington is a huge responsibility that I take very seriously. We as a nation must seek what is right and accomplish it. I will be honored and determined if I am chosen to go to Washington. It is that simple.”
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So don’t you see? Scottie Mayfield is just like us. He has the same concerns and dreams that we do. I pray that you will vote for him in the primary for the Tennessee’s Third Congressional District tomorrow and urge your friends to do the same. Again, he is one of us indeed.
My name is Roy Exum and I approve thismessage.