THE VIEW FROM PAEONIAN SPRINGS
Skipping with 'Skippy'
The vagaries of politics in Lower Alabama.
by Michael H. Thomson
October 11, 2006
In a few weeks, there will be an election. Are you aware of this? Over the next several days, we will witness some of the most creative mud slinging that the advertising world can generate. How many times will we hear "cut and run" or a candidate's name associated with the disgraced Mark Foley? It's going to be brutal folks.
Here in Paeonian Springs, Virginia and throughout Northern Virginia, one of our biggest problems is population and moving that population over an out-dated transportation system. Do you think we are going to be presented any realistic solutions to those issues? Probably not, the voices of reason and creativity are being drowned out by the battle between Democratic senatorial candidate Jim Webb and incumbent Republican Senator George Allen. Former Navy Secretary Webb made a name for himself writing action adventure novels and Allen has labored cultivating an image of the super patriotic compassionate conservative. Both have issues. Politics has a way of stripping away the veneer. The current debate seems to this partial observer a debate over who has said the "N" word the most often. No solutions to Northern Virginia's transportation problems there – I'm afraid.
Politics is crazy. It's a form of very sophisticated warfare between differing camps. It is the same the world over – even in countries where the vote is not as important as it is here. Once, even I, succumbed to its heady lure…
In 1988, I had just retired from the military. In the years prior to that, I had become a great fan of Ronald Reagan. I experienced how Reagan made a positive changes in the military during his tenure and I was impressed. Upon retirement, I became active in the local Republican Party and in 1994 ran for a state house of representatives' seat in rural south Alabama. It was combat and one of the most exciting times in my life even though I lost my bid.
The first step - the Republican Primary was the most fun. My opponent was a native son, born and raised in the area. He was totally surprised by my entry into the race and could not believe an "outsider" would have the audacity to challenge him. In retrospect, I think his arrogance defeated him. All I did was smile and once, patiently endured a lecture from the man explaining to me how he was going to beat me like a chained dog. I never saw the man again after I won the primary.
Speaking of dogs, have you ever heard the term, "yellow dog" Democrat? There are many definitions but a "yellow dog" is a Democrat who given the choice would vote for a "yellow dog" instead of a Republican. Escambia County, Alabama is a kennel for "yellow dogs" as I was soon to find out during the general election.
During my short run as a candidate, I was also given a great education in the inherent strangeness of American politics… by a man with the light hearted nickname of "Skippy."
My Democratic opponent, incumbent Frank P. "Skippy" White was a personable "good old boy" who emphasized his roots in the community and talked in a homespun manner. Trust me friends – if you ever jump into a political race watch out for homespun characters like "Skippy." They're dangerous!
In 1994 most of "Skippy's" war chest was provided by political action committees (many of which had conflicting aims).
Early in the race, he made what I would call a fatal error, when, during a high school basketball game, he rushed onto the court shouting racial epithets after his daughter was knocked to the court by an opposing black player.
He was also on the payroll of Brewton, Alabama's Jefferson Davis College as an instructor even though his education level never went beyond high school. The ex-president of the state funded college explained that "Skippy" served as a lobbyist in the legislature for the school's interests - talk about double dipping!
In my race, with "Skippy," all of these issues were brought up and examined. Two newspapers, The Tri-City Ledger, and the Atmore Advance reported on them.
On the day of the general election with the exception of one city in the county (Flomaton, Alabama – near where "Skippy" lived) I carried the day. Out in the rural parts of the county – where all the "yellow dogs" roamed, "Skippy" carried the day. Then – remember the basketball incident – "Skippy" won overwhelming in the predominantly black precincts. It seems that Frank "Skippy" White knew how to adroitly spread that PAC funded war chest around to the most influential leaders in the black community. They were addicted to the money and were not willing to give it up no matter how many epithets "Skippy" shouted.
"Skippy," like many incumbents across the the U.S., has been challenged unsuccessfully over the past several years. This year he faces a well-funded and very popular Republican candidate named Alan Baker. Baker is squeaky clean and a fearsome competitor. His war chest is impressive and he got it the old-fashioned way – from personal donations. If "Skippy" goes down, this will be the year. If he doesn't, his next opponent might want to consider proposing a leash law – for yellow dogs…
All politics is local folks. Don't let Mark Foley or the Iraq War keep you from doing your duty at the polls. If you sincerely want change - Vote!
Follow-up: Shortly after this was written, Frank P. "Skippy" White was defeated by political novice and high school football coach, Alan Baker of Brewton, Alabama.
About the Author:
Despite political differences, Mike Thomson admires Skippy White for perfecting a working formula for winning elections. His ego, however, is pulling for Alan.
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