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Local residents, national campaigns

Presidential bids get help from area residents

POSTED: January 30, 2008 5:04 a.m.
Their meeting places range from local restaurants to the Internet, but they all have the same goal: influencing the election of the next president of the United States.

Hall County has many volunteers working for a number of candidates in the Feb. 5 presidential preference primary. They range from retired persons to young people who are participating in the political process for the first time.

With one exception, the campaign leaders in Hall have never met their chosen candidate. Their decision to support a particular candidacy comes largely from exposure on television and reading stories in the newspaper and on the Internet.

Brad Farrow is a retired customer service representative from Delta Air Lines. He and his wife, Donna, moved to Flowery Branch three and a half years ago to be closer to their grandchildren.

Farrow has dabbled in Republican politics for most of his adult life. Only during a time he was a part-time minister in the Methodist church did he avoid things political. He is the chairman of the Huckabee campaign in Hall County.
His first connection to Huckabee was on TV.

"I watched the very first Republican debate," Farrow said. "I was extremely impressed and thought that this man could win."

Farrow said that while Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, appeals to Christian voters, he said it isn't fair to paint him with a narrow brush.

"I think he appeals to people who want a strong leader," Farrow said, pointing to Huckabee's election as president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention and his election as governor.

"People can see this man has real leadership abilities. He's been a leader wherever he goes," he said.

Farrow organized a rally on the Gainesville square on Friday and has held coffee gatherings at restaurants. He has never met Huckabee, but hopes he might have a chance to do so during the primary campaign.

Chad Poole, an optometrist who lives in Flowery Branch and practices in Braselton, is the Hall County chairman for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Like Farrow, he has never met his candidate, but is enthusiastic in his support.

"Romney seemed like the most intelligent candidate," Farrow said. "He led in a state that is mostly Democratic and got out with his reputation intact. I think he can unite the parties and get things done."

He likes Romney's business experience, but was worried about his stance on health care until he heard him discuss his ideas in a debate.

"After he explained it, that cleared some things up," he said.
He has watched numerous Republican debates on TV and said that Romney has yet to have a bad showing.

His political involvement, prior to joining the Romney campaign, consisted of campaigning for his father, who ran for the state Senate in South Carolina.

Poole, who owns his own practice, said that despite a demanding business schedule he is finding time to campaign.
"This is important," he said. "I feel like he is the only candidate I can whole-heartedly follow. I really want him to win the nomination."

Travis Jones has the title of "meetup" organizer in Hall, Habersham and Lumpkin counties for Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is also seeking the GOP nomination.

Paul's campaign has relied heavily on the Internet, particularly a Web site called meetup.com, where people can find out about an assortment of interests ranging from sports to music to politics.

Paul's campaign meetups are among some of the most popular, with groups in places like New York City having 1,272 members.

Jones, 30, who actually has met his candidate, said there are 67 members of the Gainesville meetup.

"He really struck a chord with me," Jones said.

Until recently, the campaign had been driven primarily by the individual work of supporters and the 1,600 meetup groups.

"Last quarter, they raised $20 million from small donations and the campaign has been able to do what it needs to do. But until that time, the grass-roots movement was the bulk of the campaign," Jones said.

Jones, an IT professional, does not consider himself a Republican, but rather an independent with Libertarian leanings.

"You can see the interest of the grass-roots participants on a daily basis. What's so incredible is that his message is so appealing across the board," he said.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has said her campaign will be visible in Hall County.

Beth Hand of Cumming, Clinton's 9th district captain, said the campaign will be operating phone banks in Hall during the primary. Other campaigns either had no Georgia offices or did not return calls seeking comment.




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