By Josh Magill
It seemed every aspect of Bethel School District’s “ABC Day” was a hit on Saturday, except for one – the “meet and greet” of political candidates was lightly attended, perhaps overshadowed by the attraction of the many events surrounding it.
I had read about it and even reported the start time in a recent article for The Mountain News. Yet, with all the commotion and flurry of events, I forgot. And it seems that many area residents did, too.
Just a few feet from the hallways and gymnasium where an energetic crowd swarmed vendor tables and networked with other community members and businesses, the Bethel High School Theater was strangely quiet. The “meet and greet” was announced over the school PA system, but the crowd noise drowned it out and nobody heard the call to head to the theater. Or maybe they did and were not interested. I’ll assume the former is true, because the latter is not something I care to believe.
Luckily, while reviewing the goodie bags obtained by my two youngest children, I was reminded by a political staffer that had come to set up at the table we were using about the meet and greet. Seeing – or hoping for – a story, I quickly packed up the kids and prodded them through the maze of people and into the theater.
To my amazement, there were less than a dozen people in the audience, including me and my not-old-enough-to vote children. The seventeen political candidates had just started a lighting round of sorts to introduce themselves, being given one minute each. They sat shoulder-to-shoulder in a crescent moon shaped line of chairs on the stage, seeming uncertain about actually proceeding further. They did anyway.
A small clutter of applause followed each candidate introduction and a smile emerged on my face as even my three-year-old clapped, without caring why. My daughter colored and hoped to be somewhere else.
After the last candidate finished, one audience member inquired if questions could be asked. A sigh of relief seemed to arise from the candidates when Jay Brower, BSD Community Connections Director, stood to say it could be done one-on-one with the candidate they had questions for, but if no questions the candidates could leave. The candidates whipped out their business cards and headed for the door hoping to make connections of their own with the 3,000 residents expected to attend the many events of the day.
Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri, came to shake my hand and say “Hello” to the children. Noticing my press badge, he asked who I was reporting for and I explained my freelance status, but wondered if it mattered. Did I want to report on such a misfortunate incident the meet and greet had been?
Unsure, I tugged at my kids and followed the candidates out into the fray of the festival to see how they reacted to the poor attendance. They never missed a beat, immediately shaking hands and greeting tables. I thought: Wow, they are in their element, like kids in candy store.
We ventured to the Frederickson-Clover Creek Community Council table, for which my wife is the president. The table was in the middle of the gym where most of the vendors were, so I figured I had a good chance to watch the candidates mingle. The F-CCCC table was also just across from the two tables set up for the two parties – Democrats and Republicans. It was another plus in terms of watching candidates.
State senator Randi Becker grinned as she walked up to the table I sat at and I commented: “Senator, I’ve been following you around all morning from event to event.”
Becker, in her bright red jacket, was not thrown at all as she quickly replied, “Really, so does that mean I have your vote?”
Such was a typical scene at many tables throughout the day as each candidate looked for that extra edge that will help them win their respective political races. So maybe, just maybe, the poor turnout at the “meet and greet” wasn’t such a negative problem for these candidates.
We’ll see how it plays out in a few weeks.
© 2012 Josh Magill