As one former speaker of the House famously said, "All politics is local." It wasn't my dad, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who said that, but the illustrious Tip O'Neill — a down-to-earth Massachusetts Democrat who understood the power of local politicians.
This week, while campaigning on behalf of my father, I was reminded that local politicians and political activists really do fire the engine of our republic. In Canton, Ohio, I attended the Stark County Republican Party's 67th annual McKinley Banquet, where dozens of individuals running for local office were recognized by their fellow party faithful. They are determined to make a difference in their community through serving their country by running for office.
Presidential politics might be exciting, but local politicians determine the details of our lives. They vote on local health, safety and zoning regulations, decide school funding and curriculum questions, and generally provide the local leadership that make our communities function. It is very important that people run and serve in these offices, and in Stark County, Ohio, they are doing just that.
The fun part of the visit was running into former Rep. Ralph Regula and his wife Mary. Regula told me a story about my dad traveling to Ohio in the late '70s/ early '80s to make a fundraising speech at Regula's request. Dad made it to Ohio, but his luggage did not — resulting in the young congressman from Georgia making his speech in hiking boots.
The next morning, I was off again — destination at the end of the day Birmingham, Ala., for the Alabama GOP Winter Dinner. The ballroom at the Birmingham Sheraton was packed with elected officials, volunteers and activists, and the turnout was impressive. Squired around by Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner, it was fun to run into old friends and meet new supporters. The excitement on the ground for Dad's campaign was palpable as I greeted supporters and took pictures with volunteers.
The next day included traveling to Alpharetta, Ga., and lunching with the Georgia Federation of Republican Women. Growing up in politics, I've always believed that while men might have the microphone, it's the women in the political arena who get things done. And it's no different in the Republican Party. These women get things done.
Some of the women in the room have been friends and supporters for four decades. Early on, when Dad was a college professor, they would often show up with a tie for him, hoping to swap out what he was wearing for the one that they were offering. Without the support of the Georgia Republican Women, Dad would never have been a congressman, much less the speaker of the House — so, to some degree, they can take some credit for the four years of a balanced budget and the welfare reform that was enacted under his leadership.
Sunday, off to New York for media and fundraising meetings, joining my sister Kathy, who had been campaigning in Arizona.
Monday consisted of an hour and a half of a radio tour (one station after another into the primary states), then off to be on "The View." It's always fun to be on a live show. You never know what is going to happen, and you can feel the excitement, the energy in the air. Unplanned, my sister and I ended up wearing the same color top — and looked a bit like twins, which the ladies of "The View" commented on at the beginning of the segment. What an experience.
Tuesday: Back to Georgia to meet up with Dad and Callista on their Georgia bus tour in Rome. The crowd was great, spilling out of the airport hanger and around the side of the building.
Last stop Tuesday was back to Carrollton, Ga., and the University of Georgia, where Dad taught college. The crowd spilled out of the room into the lobby. Gov. Nathan Deal joined us, both for picture and to introduce Dad, and I had the honor of introducing the governor.
The most fun part of the night was seeing friends from high school, hugging their necks and being warmly welcomed back to Carrollton.
It's been a long week, but a good week. Seeing old friends, meeting new ones and seeing first-hand how many wonderful people are involved and interested in working hard for the future of our country.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.