Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Macon Telegraph:

Fish fry a grand old party tradition

By Sara Pauff

PERRY - It takes a village to put on a political fish fry.

Republicans Sonny Perdue and Mac Collins might cringe at the comparison, but it seems an appropriate description of all the behind-the-scenes work that resulted in last week's "Countdown to Victory" political event in Perry.

Perry residents Steve and Deborah Davison hosted the campaign event for Collins, who is seeking to return to Congress as representative for the 8th U.S. House District. They spent much of the four days leading up to the party mowing grass, setting up picnic tables and readying their home to receive an anticipated crowd of 200.

Meanwhile, volunteer Scot Free said he had been working since the Saturday before to prepare for the dinner of fried catfish, hush puppies, french fries and coleslaw.

Free, interviewed while frying up 220 pounds catfish and 60 pounds of frozen french fries during the hot and humid afternoon, said he has helped out with the cooking at these events before - doing "four or five" fish fries for Perdue when he was campaigning for governor in 2002.

"When friends of ours give us a call, we help them out," said Free, an associate broker for Coldwell Banker in Warner Robins.

The fish fry was just the beginning for some volunteers.

Phil Dacosta said he is helping out with Collins' campaign at a "grassroots level" and plans to take off four weeks in October from his job as an industrial engineer at BellSouth. "That's my part-time job - working for free for these guys is my full-time job," the Macon resident said.
Dacosta, who was born in Zimbabwe, said he spends much of his time speaking to individuals, going door to door passing out literature, trying to convince anyone he can about his faith in his candidate.

"I know what happens when you don't get involved," Dacosta said, gesturing to stickers on his T-shirt promoting Collins, as well as state senators Bill Stephens and Casey Cagle.

Steve Holcomb may not be able to take off from his job as a dentist in Warner Robins to volunteer full-time, but he says he's ready to help Perdue again. "I'll be the first one in line," he said.

Holcomb said he has known the governor, who spoke in support of his fellow Republican candidate at the fish fry, since high school and has helped out with his various campaigns on the grassroots level since then.

Holcomb said he is especially impressed with the high school and college students who donate time to the campaign, often during their summer vacations. "They know they're not getting paid... . That's a pretty powerful statement from young Georgians," he said.

Daniel Simpson, a student at Georgia College and State University, said he planned to increase his involvement with the campaign as Election Day nears.

"I've been a Republican my entire life," Simpson said. "I lend my support to whatever I can - yard signs, bumper stickers, letters to the editor to try to convince people - stuff a college student can do."

Collins, a 61-year-old Jackson businessman who owns a ready mix concrete company, said he had four events like the fish fry scheduled this month. "It's how you get out and meet people," Collins said of gatherings like the Perry fish fry.

The candidate spent much of the fish fry doing just that, shaking hands with supporters as they gathered to wait for dinner. "I spend a lot of time standing down there shaking hands and it bottle-necked and they said you've gotta move," Collins said.

He expressed his gratitude to the organizers of the event. "I didn't know what kind of fish fry Steve was gonna have, but this was a good'un," the candidate told the crowd.

Rodney Corbin, a teacher at Northside High School in Warner Robins, said the fish fry was only his second campaign event, but he isn't daunted by a busy schedule.

"I'm loving it," said Corbin, who was running the campaign table. "It's a lot to do, but I think it's for a good cause," he said.