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Candidates meet the people

By Ed Brock

Strapping a pair of roller skates on her daughter, Tesha Davis of Riverdale said she hadn't come to meet the candidates in the upcoming primary election who were there for a public forum.

But she met one, anyway. William Ogletree, a candidate for the 13th U.S. Congressional District, was there to shake her hand as she came in.

"I thought he was friendly. He looks like he's really trying to get people to vote for him," Davis said.

As for whether Ogletree won her vote, Davis said "we'll see."

Several candidates turned out for the "Meet the Candidates" event at Sparkles Skating Rink on Ga. Highway 85 in Riverdale Saturday afternoon. Along with the chance to meet several candidates who showed up for the event, the nearly 300 people who came also enjoyed horseback riding and other amusements including skating.

The event started with the introduction of the candidates who, with little more than a week before the July 20 primaries, were taking advantage of several opportunities to meet their constituents.

"We didn't want to hog the candidates all day," said Elizabeth G. Armstrong, a member of the Grassroots Link organization that sponsored the event. "We know they had their plates full."

Lois Baines Hunter, candidate for Clayton County School Board District 2, said the event gave the candidates a chance to "put a personality with the pictures" on the campaign signs and posters.

"I shook hands with around 50 people and hugged quite a few," Hunter said.

Erica Davis, a current school board member who is not running in this campaign, also came out to meet the candidates.

"It was very positive to see the community come out and decide to be informed about who they want representing them in government," Davis said. "I think everybody just wants good government."

Riverdale City Councilwoman Michelle Bruce came out to the event also.

"I'm getting to know the candidates and come election day I'll cast my vote," Bruce said.

Campaigning for his father Johnny Castaneda, a candidate for Georgia state representative for District 74, John Castaneda was enduring the summer heat and rain showers to hold up a sign by the side of the road.

"It's pretty hot. It's all right," Castaneda said. "People are pretty nice."

Castaneda's friend Joe Marks joined him, also enduring the humidity.

"It's going well," Marks said. "We've been getting water and stuff."

Armstrong said the event also gave the people an opportunity to learn about the jobs the candidates would be doing if they are elected.

"A lot of us don't know what each office does," Armstrong said.

Grassroots Link is a Riverdale-based organization that has been in existence for a little over a year now, Armstrong said. They are involved in elections in North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida but the group was conceived in Clayton County.

The four main issues promoted by Grassroots Link are quality of life, quality education, quality, accessible, affordable health care and "a return to real family values."

More information on the group is available at www.grassrootslink.com.