Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Coffee with Vance Cheek Jr.

It isn't often that a political candidate comes into a small-town drugstore and has coffee with the people there and makes conversation like he is one of them. Sure, candidates stop in drugstores and restaurants and libraries and coffee shops all the time, but those encounters are just that-they are campaign stops, the natural extension of a lengthy and often tiresome campaign process.

It can safely be said of Vance Cheek Jr. that his visit to the Sanitary Drug Store was in fact a campaign stop, but it wasn’t a necessary one for two reasons: The first is because White Pine is on the very edge of the First District, on its western periphery, and many more votes are to be had elsewhere. The second is because Vance Cheek had made a swing through White Pine before and made it a point to stop off at the Sanitary. It says quite a lot about the man that he managed to win the hearts and minds of nearly all the morning coffee regulars in the old pharmacy in a vast Republican Primary field in the First District.

Vance Cheek did not need to be in White Pine, Tennessee this morning, but he came anyway. Granted, Cheek not only posted to this blog proposing a morning coffee meeting, but he e-mailed me proposing the same thing. Nonetheless, I could think of a million good reasons why he would want to be elsewhere, but he came here, and I was glad that he came. Yes, Cheek spoke seriously about issues that matter to many of us who live here, like his commitment to the pro-life cause and to the idea of serious tax reform. He also talked quite a bit about being in public life generally, about his experiences as Mayor of Johnson City, and about life in general. It is also worth noting that he takes the time to make a person-to-person connection with nearly every person that he comes in contact with. I was impressed that Cheek stayed for over an hour to talk with me and the other regulars in detail, it wasn’t just a quick howdy for him.

In a normal race, Cheek might trail his opponents somewhat heavily because he has chosen to concentrate on direct campaign stops, signs, and stickers rather than rely on modern television advertising. In some races, that might be a mistake, but the field in this race is so large, Cheek has a legitimate shot to win with his whistle-stop and radio strategy.

Not only is Cheek personable, but I do think that if he is elected he will do an outstanding job at constituent service. He is not the only man in this race (by far) that this could be said about, but I was impressed that Cheek had a plan about how he would go about providing services to his constituents-that can’t be said about many first-time Congressional candidates.

We had a good coffee this morning-perhaps after the Primary Mr. Cheek will blog for us about what may come next.


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