It Is About the Numbers

August 6, 2004
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Most local officials say the issues drove primary election voters to the polls last week in what was a comparatively "large" voter turnout across Michigan, but it may be that both presidential candidate appearances also were a booster in KentCounty. Grand Rapidian and Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said the state averaged a 20 percent turnout (compared to Kent County's 33 percent) and that the greatest increase in primary balloting was in Otsego County (in the 105th state House district, where two-thirds more voters cast ballots than in 2002). Jackson, Branch, Hillsdale and Lenawee counties in the 7th Congressional district also saw higher turnout in this year's primary compared to the 2002 primary.

In both political camps, it looks like people are ready to vote, and if the measure of intolerance one for another (as we've rarely seen) is any indication, this election is winding into a slugfest that is more a product of the electorate than the candidates.

Peter Secchia, Republican stalwart and "a close personal friend" to President George W. Bush (as the president noted in his speech on July 30), worries about the behavior of the faithful.

"A spirited campaign is good for America. Negatives are one thing, but we don't need the hate; it's not good for anyone," Secchia said, believing that those at the rally for Sen. John Kerry were especially venomous. "I discourage it, but I know you can't control everything every single person does, you can't track everybody," he said.

Secchia also wanted to note that the Bush appearance was not a "rally," like that of Kerry. It was, he said, "remarks. See, the president can do one of three things: a policy speech, remarks or a rally. We had a severe weather forecast and we had to be indoors. It was an opportunity to make remarks to people." Secchia also noted, "If we had been outside, we would have had at least 15,000 people. And we could have made tickets available on the Internet." The last remark refers to the by-ticket-only entry for "remarks" made by Bush, as compared to the Kerry campaign making "tickets" to an outdoor "rally" at the lunch hour available by printing them off an Internet site. And we must note that the forecasted severe storms met Kerry at the dock in Muskegon where he waited to board the ferry to Milwaukee

The Kerry rally also served as high profile for individuals not often at the top of the (local) political page:

State Rep. Michael Sak, R-Grand Rapids:Served as emcee and was the most enthusiastic Dem for Kerry, even showing off his shamrock "lucky Irish" boxers to stave off rain (his enthusiasm was closely followed by attorney Gary McInerney).

George Heartwell: The Grand Rapids mayorsaid that if Michigan was a battleground state, then Grand Rapids was the "trench" of the battleground state.

Teresa Heinz Kerry: They were not afraid, in Gov. Jennifer Granholm territory (that's technically the center of the city), to give her the mic. Shesaid a building of community in the home and the city needed to be done again and she felt that women had to lead that charge.

Grand Rapids may hear forever the debate over The Numbers: Police Chief Harry Dolan estimated 8,000, because the CalderPlaza is said to hold about 10,000. But Heartwell said later in the week that the U.S.Secret Service told him the crowd for Kerry's visit was between 20,000 and 22,000.

Secchia also commented on the numbers: "It was an extremely enthusiastic crowd. It was a respectable turnout, but the bleachers were empty. If this had been a Republican rally, the (local daily newspaper) would have photographed that. But the turnout was far greater than Gore."

  • Those who believe these to be tumultuous times might recall this quote from Monday, Aug. 9, 1974: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers. … If you have not chosen me by secret ballot, neither have I gained office by any secret promises. … I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it." And most famous, a line almost deleted by its speaker: "Our long national nightmare is over." Today marks the 30th anniversary of former President Gerald R. Ford's oath of office, hours after then-President Richard Nixon announced to the nation he would resign.

The Ford Museum is open free to the public Aug. 9, to share the enormity of this day in history, for which there was no inauguration, celebration nor Marine Band performance of "Hail to the Chief" (by Ford's order).

Ford celebrated his 91st birthday last month, and is one of two presidents to have lived to see the 30th anniversary of his oath of office.

Local Public Broadcasting System affiliate WGVU Productions will air its new documentary about Ford at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 11. It will premiere at the Ford Museum Sept. 8. Rob Byrd, WGVU, served as director; Ken Kolbe, WGVU assistant general manager, was producer; and Mike Grass of Strategic Communications was writer and producer. The documentary has been made available to PBS stations across the country, and chronicles Ford's childhood, Congressional terms and Presidency with interviews with Ford's former cabinet members, including Henry Kissinger    

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