Not quite, but it’ll do said candidates at a ‘Get Out the Vote’ event on Saturday
By Mindy Lucas
The Beaufort County Democratic Party and U.S. Rep. James Clyburn held a “Get Out The Vote” kickoff rally and “Drive-By Fish Fry” on Saturday, Oct. 3 at Whale Branch Middle School in Seabrook.
While Rep. Clyburn was not personally on hand for the event, the fish fry was one of four the congressman was sponsoring in his district over the weekend.
Local candidates who were on hand for the event said the fish fry was a chance not only to remind residents of down ballot races but an opportunity to network with each other as well.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” said Barb Nash, who is running for S.C. House District 124.
And while local candidates have been using social media to reach voters or meeting software like Zoom for forums or meetings, those “virtual events” just aren’t the same as talking to people face to face, Nash said.
“It’s not the same, but this, this is a middle ground,” she said, pointing out that everyone at the event was keeping their distance and wearing a mask.
Saturday’s event and others to follow are undoubtedly a sign that things are different – even on the campaign trail this year.
Usually held in Columbia, the congressman’s “World Famous Fish Fry,” for example, can easily draw more than 1,000 people including a who’s who of Democratic party representatives and officials and, every four years, presidential hopefuls. But because of the coronavirus, Clyburn decided to do away with this year’s event in favor of smaller get-togethers held throughout his district.
On Saturday, local candidates greeted cars and SUVs from the curb in front of the school, as drivers lined up for information on voting and of course, a basket of tasty fried fish.
Volunteers were planning to fry and give away more than 90 pounds of fish for about 200 people and it was “going fast,” said Beaufort County Democratic Party Chair Mayra Rivera-Vazquez.
Asked if there was a secret ingredient in the fish fry, a volunteer from the Healthy Churches Consortium of Sheldon quipped, “Our love.”
State Senate District 43 candidate Richard Hricik, who waved and passed campaign materials to those who drove by on Saturday, said the pandemic has changed the way candidates have campaigned this year.
And it has made it harder for local or smaller races to grab the attention of voters, he said, even those on the same ticket.
The latest news out of Washington and races such as the one heating up between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, have captured the attention of most voters now, he said.
“So it’s hard for these down ballot races to get attention,” he said, adding that that was why Saturday’s event, which enabled residents to get out and see the candidates, was so important – even if they only had seconds to pass a card or a sticker to voters driving by.
Still, local candidates continue to look for opportunities to campaign.
Jodie Srutek, who is running for a seat on Beaufort County Council, was also at Saturday’s event. And while Srutek is not on the ballot in Beaufort or Seabrook – District 7 is based in Bluffton – she still felt it important to be there.
“It’s more of an opportunity to listen,” she said. “To see what’s important to people here.”
It also provided a much-needed sense of normalcy, she said.
“One of the last normal things I did was the ‘Turn it Blue BBQ’ in Charleston,” she said.
That event? It was in January – some ten months ago.
For those on the campaign trail, pre-pandemic events like those now seem like a lifetime ago.
Above: Volunteer Lenora Jenkins prepares a basket at the “Get out the Vote” and “Drive-by Fish Fry” Saturday, Oct. 3, in Seabrook. Photo by Mindy Lucas.