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Harris Blackwood: Know your district, nominees when going to vote
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The people of the 6th Congressional District went to the polls last week to elect a new congressman.

The sixth district is composed of the northern tip of DeKalb County, the northern tip of Fulton County and the eastern region of Cobb County.

But folks from all over the area served by Atlanta television stations went to their polling places to vote in this election. Some got very angry and accused places such as churches and schools of denying them the right to vote.

Mrs. Gump, mother of movie hero Forrest Gump, said “Stupid is as stupid does.”

I’m sorry, but there is a responsibility we have as voters to know the district numbers or names of our elected representatives. You can find this in many places.

If you go to the Secretary of State’s website (, you can enter your name, date of birth and county of residence to find everybody who represents you. You can also go to the county voter registrar, and they can tell you the names of your representatives and district numbers.

When cable TV came along, we stopped watching news every night at 6 o’clock. It was much more comforting to watch Andy of Mayberry instead of Jeff Hullinger, Jovita Moore, Russ Spencer or whoever is anchoring the news. I like all of those folks, by the way.

I remember a day when we had just three networks and everyone had an evening newscast. We all watched the news at dinnertime. We saw the notable politicians on TV.

By the way, many of us have given up the whole notion of a meal with the family gathered around the table. Ward and June Cleaver, where are you?

In the 6th District, candidates spent millions of dollars on campaign ads. Some of them hardly mentioned the candidate who “approved” them. Instead they launched on telling you what a terrible person their opponent is and why you should never, ever vote for them. It must have struck a nerve with some folks because they were chomping at the bit to go and vote.

Back in the days before TV, candidates used to go to the local county seat and make an old-fashioned stump speech on the courthouse steps or some other venue.

In 1950, George Smathers challenged Claude Pepper in Florida for Pepper’s U.S. Senate seat. Smathers, according to a number of various sources, changed his speech in less-educated rural areas of the Sunshine state.

“Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert?” Smathers asked his rural audiences. “Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy.”

Smathers denied every saying these words, but the legend has become a part of Florida’s political lore.

Another story is about a Georgia politician who was asked about his attitude toward euthanasia. Thinking they were trying to talk about youth in Asia, he replied, “I’m for young people wherever they are from.”

One of our most colorful governors, Lester Maddox, once said the problem with our prisons is caused by the class of people who inhabit them.

“Clearly then,” Maddox said, “we need a better class of prisoner.”

Maybe we could use a better class of both voter and politician.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on